We seemed to have missed out on spring and were propelled straight into a false summer! The recent heat wave though enjoyable has increased the gardener’s workload with constant watering from dawn until dusk. Young plants in the poly tunnel which have an underdeveloped root system will dehydrate in minutes and die instantly therefore I have to remain on constant vigil! Working inside under melting plastic in this intense heat can only be endured for short periods of time and is not for the faint hearted. Most of my potting up is done late evening when the sun is low. I am under pressure and moving with the speed of light – squinting in the poly tunnel in the half-dark is an exhausting exercise.
Transplanting trays of vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and peas is again best done in the evening as the cooler night air will allow them a soak time. Dill is a herb which dislikes root disturbance so it is not a suitable candidate for pot sales even though it is in high demand! It needs to be sown directly into its growing position outside. I like to mark the seed drills by filling with compost as this defines where the seedlings emerge and makes them easier to identify. Sowing every two weeks until the end of June will ensure a lengthy supply of this delicious herb. Coriander is another splendid herb; growing lush in the cooler temperatures of April and May – after that it tends to run to seed and then basil takes priority in the heat of the summer. These three mentioned are annuals so regular sowings are necessary to provide a continuous supply!
Seed sowing now creates a fever like madness in me: I have so much to sow before the end of May deadline. After that it is too late as most herbs take at least ten weeks to mature. For most perennials, April is the month for sowing – I need to make final sowings of lupins, oriental poppies and hollyhocks. Many of these may not reach the sales shelf until next year but they will over-winter successfully as young potted plants. In my previous article I mentioned that I was testing the organic compost ‘Living Green’ for seed sowing. Unfortunately it has proved inconsistent, certain seed such as lettuce and rocket did not succeed whereas other varieties such as spinach and parsley thrived. I therefore can only advocate using it for potting up and planting out! It is a rich growing medium for these procedures but use a multi purpose brand for seed sowing.
Most gardens now should have undergone a complete makeover of pruning, weeding and clearing. The rains have descended so now is a perfect time to plant out once temperatures remain mild. I recommend delaying planting out tender varieties such as cucumber, courgette and tomatoes until mid May as anything can happen with our weather system. Troops of slugs are now imminent! This heavy rainfall has created a high tide in the garden and they will quickly surf and slide to reach all your delectable greens! I try my best to plant things they dislike and I am blessed that herbs do not excite their palate. Most of my frog spawn has mysteriously disappeared and sadly all I can see are a few lonesome tadpoles swimming aimlessly. I hope these strong survivors will grow legs quickly and realise their mission in life – to take a great leap out from the pond and gobble up some slugs! My goldfish as yet have made no appearance and I sense perhaps a heron thief has enjoyed a gourmet meal at my expense!