Happy gardening everyone!
April can in many ways be a frustrating month; it’s supposed to be all about sunshine, sparkling showers and blossom bursting out on fruit trees.
And sometimes it is.
But right now the sun has disappeared, temperatures have plummeted, the early foraging bees are nowhere to be seen and even the dandelions have shut down by folding their flowers tight. A bitter easterly wind makes it feel twice as cold and we may as well be back in the depths of winter. This sort of weather is allowed in March, we expect it; but mid April? Come on!
In truth there is nothing unusual about any of this, it happens pretty much every year and we all have a jolly good moan as if it can’t possibly have happened ever before. When the sun returns in a few days we’ll have forgotten all about it. Meanwhile it’s too damned cold to be outside so I’m finally getting around to updating my blog.
So what’s happening?
Well, the rhubarb is looking pretty verdant and we’ve had a few feeds off it already with many more to come.
There are two things I love about rhubarb. The first is the taste, good old traditional rhubarb and custard is hard to beat. (We must have forgotten to plant custard last year; we had to go out and buy that part).
The second thing I like about it is that it is so easy to grow; in fact it grows itself. Just throw on some compost once a year, pick away all summer and tidy up the dead leaves in late autumn. That’s it, nothing else to do. It even smothers its own weeds as it grows.
Sown direct into the ground last October, the broad beans are in full flower accompanied by a row of early peas. The latter grown in modules in the polytunnel and planted out a week ago.
Winter garlic and onions are making good progress and Marion’s
weeds, sorry, flowers, dotted around the pathways and encroaching on my vegetable beds brighten the place up.
Things are busy in the polytunnel too, with seedlings in modules all growing ready to be planted out in their allotted positions with military timing and position on the appropriate calendar day. (Which is probably the most ludicrous statement I or anyone else ever made on a gardening blog).
This year the whole of the allotments has gone tomato mad, with everyone rushing about swapping Heritage and other unusual varieties. But Hey! That’s what polytunnels are all about. We have that many already that we’d need ten polytunnels to grow them all in, some serious culling will have to be done.
My favourite so far is called Mrs Ruckston’s Bush, or something like that. Definitely have to make room for that one.
Rain forecast for tomorrow but it’s been mostly dry lately so everyone has been up turning the soil.
That’s another nice thing about this time of year, only the diehards are to be occasionally seen in the winter but once March and April come everyone else comes out of hibernation and old acquaintances are renewed and new friends made.
We ourselves have done very little digging this year and intend to do very little more. We’re trying ‘No Dig’.
The principle behind this is that soil does not need to be dug for vegetables, indeed it can be all the better off for being left alone. All the living organisms, including saprophytic fungi, which make it work are better undisturbed. At the same time plants are quite happy to grow in firm soil (there is a difference between firm and compacted). Also, every time you dig you stir up weed seeds; if you don’t dig you, er, don’t.
The idea is entirely new to us but it seems to make sense so we’re giving it a go.
The broad beans and peas mentioned above were planted in this way and I put in our spuds a couple of weeks ago. All that was required was to pull up the sprouts that had overwintered there, rake the bed level again, and drop in the potatoes at the correct spacing to the depth of a trowel. The bed was then covered with two inches of our own compost and that was that. If necessary as the tubers form and if they’re likely to go green on exposure to sunlight, they get another inch of compost.
We’ll see how it turns out.
If it does go all pear shaped we’ll be blaming a certain Charles Dowding. He has a small market garden in Somerset and an excellent series of tutorials on YouTube. Have a look at this one for starters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVY4SJt4mzg or this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXO_j0vriwk
So that’s us halfway through April. We’re really looking forward to the rest of the year and hope you are too.