May in the Garden

Funny weather we are having…we say year after year, and this one is no exception. It remains cold but there is talk of a rapid increase in temperatures by the end of this first week of May.

This is the month when we should be able to get most things out in the garden. I have stuff queueing up and overflowing but we had several nights of frost last week and I don’t want to get caught out by that. I have already had to ridge up my potatoes to protect them, even though they were barely breaking the surface (they don’t mind being covered by the way). Even the purple sprouting broccoli is only just beginning to think about sprouting and that has had a warm blanket of enviromesh over it too. Even some of the asparagus crowns were turned to mush by the frost. I have never seen that before.

Once the frost has passed then everything can go out. That includes the really tender plants such as courgettes and pumpkins. Runners and French beans are included in the tender group too.

It is always best to wait for things to warm up because you gain nothing by planting small plants into cold soil with accompanying cold air temperatures and frosty nights. With the warm, extended autumns we are now experiencing we will benefit from a longer second half of the season from our plants if we wait.

This is especially true of the flowers. Half-hardy annuals like cosmos go on and on flowering and give really good value right up to the end of November and beyond. Sweet peas sit and sulk in the cold and I am glad I have waited.

I am pushing the hoe through the beds whenever there is a dry moment. Because the weeds are small the chances are that I am pushing them out of the soil rather than cutting them. If I do this on a sunny day the heat will burn the roots off. Keep the hoe sharp too, it makes life much easier.

And now to open ground sowing – sweet corn, beetroot, parsnip at last, turnips, swedes for the Cornish Pasty makers, and seedbeds for transplanting lettuce and the winter brassicas – kales, savoys, January Kings, Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting. It saves on compost and you get a deeper rooting seeding with the brassicas as well as a better lettuce seedling generally. Lettuce is not fond of hot temperatures and can often do poorly in the heat at the germination stage. Outside is better for them.

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