This guy is flowering sweetly in the border exactly as it should at this time of year.
For once April seems to be doing exactly what it should. Sunshine, showers, heat during the day, undercover watering daily but in return lots of growth, at the same time there is still light frost at night which means attention to closing down vents in the glasshouse in the evening, shutting the doors of the tunnel and putting fleece on plants outside.
In the fields rabbit season is well and truly upon us. Cat food bills have been slashed as Dutch daily brings home a fresh rabbit and grudgingly shares it with Ginger. If you are the kind of person who has trouble watching spiders kill flies then you will never survive watching one cute fluffy animal murder another equally cute fluffy animal and then eat it head first. Not for the faint hearted.
In the garden things are going very well and everything this spring has a calm relaxed feel about it. The untidy beds I left for ladybirds and other insects to overwinter in are being cleared away. In bed 5 I have amalgamated the last of last years crops with odd survivors and volunteers, mustard, garlic, parsnips, red celery, and Swiss chard. Today I’m adding some bronze fennel, flat leaved parsley,red veined sorrel and nettles. Why would you bother? all will provide valuable salad /dinner fodder and herbal teas until the bed is needed in mid to late May so I think it’s worth the (minor)trouble.The first early and second early potatoes are planted with the beds currently under fleece, I will leave that on until their green shoots are well underway.
In the overwintering allium bed the garlic and onions look brilliant. The trick of covering them after sowing with horticultural fleece or a cloche for several weeks works really well. They don’t get attacked or pulled up by hungry birds and the slight improvement in temperature seems to guarantee better success. Last year I used fleece, the year before a cloche, after taking off the fleece in January this years bed looks like a 100% uptake.
Slugs are out and about so nightly slug patrols have started, especially in the glasshouse, cold frame and plastic house to catch them before they damage the crop of seedlings. They already ate lots of Zinnias on a night I judged “too cold” for slug activity. Replacements are sprouting as I type. The plastic house has many varieties of tomatoes, a few varieties of basil, zinnias, chrysanthemums, dahlias, lupins, cumin, cinderella stock, cosmos, tagetes (alumia vanilla) and cobaea scandens.In the cold frame are chillies and peppers, more heat sensitive tomatoes and of course more zinnias!
In the glasshouse on two of the benches are loads of Seamuses overwintering chillies from last year (who better start sprouting soon if they want to stay) ,pots of french tarragon, pots of mints, pots of sprouting ocas saved from last years harvest , pots of sweet potatoes (that James Wong said would sprout if I planted them but haven’t so far, damm you James Wong!!!), on the third bench are pots of seedling salad veg; lots of lettuces, oriental greens, mustards, and red pak choi, On the floor are pots of pumpkins and squash waiting to sprout along with trays of beans of all kinds; drying beans, chinese noodle beans, dwarf french beans and borlottos.The first dwarf french have just begun to pop up this morning.And to my shame there are loads more zinnias in biodegradable pots, its beginning to look like I have a Zinnia problem!
Evicted out and hardening off are trays of onions, shallots and leeks, peas, broad beans, pots of delphiniums, malva, verbascum, antirrhinums, and monarda bergamot. I planted out the papaver nudicale and overwintered sweet peas, but have a pile of violas to follow. Sown last autumn the oriental poppies and delphiniums are just going to be potted up until they get big enough to safetly go out.
Today the sweetcorn which I pre-germinated on the advise of John Harrison in his excellent Vegetable growing month by month book needs to be sown into pots while I wait (im)patiently for the musk strawberry to germinate. This is one of the most interesting plants I am growing from seed this year and I am so excited about it! The other thing I am trying to germinate as a pet for the polytunnel is tropaeolum tricolorum a spectacular plant from the Andes. Currently the seed tray is in the fridge, a few weeks ago it was in a warm room, in a few weeks it will be on the propagator. Its a long-haul type of project.
In the tunnel the two apple trees are flowering and luckily are being visited by bumble bees every day as are the early crop of broad beans . The apricot flowered a few weeks ago and I did pollinate it by hand (luckily the apricot tree outside was flowering at the same time so I cross pollinated the two). It’s amazing the difference the poly-tunnel makes. The tree outside shows no sign of flower remains let along fruit formation while the one inside is swelling nicely on the base of old flowers. It’s Definitely worth moving an apricot indoors.
Reading back over this formidable list you almost feel surprised at how much is going on (and a bit tired too thinking about it!)but that’s April I suppose. My beginner gardening students were complaining of all the hard work they are doing at the moment; sowing seeds, transplanting, hardening off, planting out, slug patrol and weeding so I tried to explain to them that this is the working part of the year, later on comes the eating bit!
Tropaeolum seeds here
Musk strawberry seeds here