Wednesday April 1st 2009
Another warm day with sunny intervals. Unfortunately a problem with my software meant I didn't get out of the house till after three so I didn't have much time for any gardening.

I did have time to earth up the Arran Pilot potatoes in the pots in the polytunnel. Half of them I used sieved well rotted compost and the other half sieved soil from the old turf mound, completely covering the stems and only leaving the leaves showing. It will be interesting to see which produces the most and best tubers.

Thursday April 2nd
Pat's Birthday, though she doesn't like to celebrate it. Another warm day but with less sun. Tomorrow is the start of the Easter school holidays so she will be at home for the next 18 days.

Watered the strawberries I planted out last week. I was hoping for some rain for these; some is forecast for the weekend but we shall see if it is enough to wet the garden thoroughly and fill the water butts. Planted some more of the seed potatoes. Red Duke of York; another second early variety.

Pricked out the Zinnia seedlings. Only 17 of them but they are big flowers to that should be enough. Also 3 trays of 20 Helichrysum and 4 trays of 20 parsley.

Moved the potted fuchsia out of the conservatory to a cooler spot outside; they were beginning to flag a little in the heat but are still flowering well. The cineraria are beginning to die back and we will end up without plants inside until the begonias start to grow; very little signs of these so far but it is only early April.

Friday April 3rd
As promised some rain overnight but not much. Woke up to blue skies but still with a cold wind.
Dug up the remaining leeks for a final batch of leek and potato soup

Planted yet more potatoes. This time a variety called Hunter which came free to try out. Only 10 tubers and no indication what they are like. Spent the rest of the dau weeding and generally tidying up at the bottom of the kitchen garden

Saturday April 4th
Another warmish day with sunny intervals. Only 13°C outside but rose to 22 in the polytunnel. Pat went to visit her mother in the nursing home in Bradford so had the house to myself.

Pricked out most of the brassica seedlings into 12 cell trays. 48 of each; we don't need anything like that many but not all may survive. There are several Large White butterflies in the polytunnel. I tried putting them outside but they seem to find their way back. Useful since they are feeding on the strawberry flowers so will help to fertilise them but they are also interested in the brassica seedlings; not surprising since the food plant for their caterpillars are cabbages.  To prevent this I have built a temporary enclosure using breeze blocks and covered it with some fine netting to keep therm out. I don't recall this happening before nor seeing them so early in the year but reading my butterfly book it mentions that they do sometimes hibernate in greenhouses over the winter

Sunday April 5th.
Another similar day and still no rain so I filled the water-butt outside the polytunnel from the well as I needed to water most of the plants inside.

Dug up the remaining parsnips and then forked over the entire bed near the house where I will be planting beans and peas in the next few weeks. Sowed two rows of parsnips for next year at the opposite side of this bed; like leeks they are another 12 month crop.  Covered the whole bed with black woven plastic to keep it weed free and warm it up. The parsnips take several weeks germinate so can be left under cover till then.

Monday - Thursday April 6-9
The weather continues to be changeable; warmish and overcast with the odd light shower and a gusty wind.

Continued to weed the garden and keep the plants in the polytunnel watered. The Arran Pilot potatoes have now grown large enough to fill the pots with soil or compost. Some of the plum trees and the damson trees have started to flower. Hopefully there will not be an airfrost until the fruit is set.

Good Friday April 10th
It was quite cold overnight but soon started to warm up in the morning though rather cloudy most of the day.

Sowed Onward and Alderman Peas two to the cell in 12 cell half trays, 10 trays each. These are to follow the Excellenz which are now growing well and can soon been planted out.

Double dug the border down the outside of the fruit net. When this has settled I will plant the King Edward main crop potatoes here.

Easter Saturday April 11th
Woke up to a much better day. Clear and sunny with a maximum outside of 17°C and 28° in the polytunnel.

Went for a walk in the morning and then back to clearing some more of the woodshed roof - now about 3/4 done.

Easter Sunday April 12th
Another warm day. It actually went above 30 in the polytunnel and I left the door open for the first time this year to stop it getting too humid.

Sarah and the two younger boys, Cowan and Euan, are coming to stop for a few days tomorrow and Pat decided to check the drains as she usually does before we have visitors. The flow was rather sluggish so I got out the drain rods to clear them but with very little success.

So off came the lid of the septic tank (a very heavy slab 120 x 60 x 10 cm - takes two to move it). It isn't full but it is getting that way and it doesn't smell so it is working properly. The problem was the land drain it overflows the liquid part into. This is completely full; something which has never happened before. Very strange since we have had very little rain for several weeks. However the field behind the ditch was flooded for most of last autumn and winter and the ditch between the garden and the field where the drain is situated is still full of water. I spent a couple of hours digging out the ditch to drain some of the liquid but this will only give temporary relief so we will need to get the tank emptied. Hopefully by the time it has filled again the water table in the surrounding land will have dropped. Another wet summer could cause problems!!

Easter Monday April 13th
Overcast with sunny intervals and a gusty wind. Started to cut back the tall grasses growing down the bottom of the drive but was interrupted by Sarah, Cowan and Euan arriving earlier than we expected. (Thomas, the eldest, had stayed at home with his dad, Ian, to help decorate his bedroom)

We took them to play on the lawn. Cowan picked some daisies, helped by Euan, and Sarah made them into a daisy chain.  Later Cowan picked some of the flowers (I told him he could) and I took Euan for a walk round the garden too. After dinner Sarah and I took Euan in his push chair for a walk round the back lanes to see what we could find in the way of farm animals for him to look at.

Tuesday April 14th
A dull day with a few showers but it cleared a little in the afternoon so we all went for a walk round Whixall Moss We walked about 4 miles with Cowan running ahead probably covering more like 5. Both of them slept well that night!!

Wednesday April 15th
It rained in the night and was still damp in the morning. It eventually cleared up so Pat, Sarah and the boys went on a trip to a show farm near Oswestry. I couldn't go, too many people exuding fragrances, but they sounded to have had a good time when they came back. I spent the afternoon working in the polytunnel, digging over the bottom border after I had moved and cleaned up the chrysanthemums which had been wintering in their pots there. They will need to go outside soon as it is getting too hot for them in the polytunnel. Most have now had their crown buds removed and a few have secondary buds which also need removing to get lots of side shoots to grow for later in the year.

Planted out the Broad Beans in the bed near the house. Gave then some fish blood and bone fertiliser and also fertilised the strawberries. Rain is forecast overnight so no need to water it in.

Sarah and the boys went home after tea.

Thursday April 16th
It rained most of the night and intermittently all day so the water butts are nearly full again. Apart from some weeding in the polytunnel didn't do much in the garden

Friday April 17th
Weather improving. Sunny intervals but with a cold breeze. Only 14°C ouside but over 30°C in the polytunnel. The man came to empty the septic tank in the morning.

Spent most of the aftenoon in the polytunnel transplanting the tomatoes and squashes into 5in pots. Once they fill these it will be time to plant them out to the polytunnel borders and the greenhouse. Inspected the chrysanthemum cuttings. Nearly all of them seem to have rooted.

A frost is forecast tonight so the tomatoes, squashes and peppers (not yet transplanted) need to go back in the polycarbonate box for additional protection

Saturday April 18th
A lovely sunny day but still with a cold breeze.
Started to dig over the ground round the fruit trees, especially removing the dandelions and buttercups before they seed. Pat weeded the strawberry beds which are already starting to flower. Those in the polytunnel now have some fruit set and swelling.

The plum cherry and pear trees are flowering well and the apples are just starting. Another frost is likely tonight but hopefully only on the ground not in the air which could damage them.

Sunday April 19th

Sunny and cold first thing but soon started to warm up to 17°C by the afternoon. 34°C in the polytunnel even with the door open (no wind). It is now taking over an hour each day just watering the plants in there.
Continued to dig over the ground between the road and tbe fruit trees.

Mondau April 20th
Very similar weather to yesterday.

Back to school for Pat and back to work for me every morning but hopefully no urgent requests causing me to work longer. This is a very busy time in the garden so I will need to work all afternoon every day and maybe even in the evening mainly on boring tasks like weeding and watering. It all needs to be done to ensure we get lots of flowers, fruit and vegetables later in the year.

Tuesday April 21st
Slightly more overcast but still warm for the time of year.

Completed digging out the weeds from the area beyond the fruit trees and double dug an area 4ft x 25ft to plant the last of the potatoes. Full of roots so very hard work!!

Wednesday April 22nd
Rather overcast and humid

Since the area I dug over yesterday has not been cultivated for over 20 years I decided to grow the potatoes in well rotted compost rather than directly in the soil. These are the late main crop, Golden Wonder, which produces large thick skinned tubers which keep well into the spring either in storage or in the ground if not too wet. No relation to the potato crisps of the same name though they probably could be used for this purpose.

I dug a long trench a spades depth down each side of the bed, piling the soil on the outside. I then placed some compost in the bottom of the trench and the potatoes on top of this and then placed a pile of compost down the middle of the bed, drawing a few inches over the top of the seed tubers. I can use this pile to earth them up as they grow till level with the outer ridge of soil.

I have done this before with a new piece of land. It usually gives a good crop and is also a good method for conditioning the soil for successive planting of onions or beans for instance. By the time I had finished I had moved 14 barrow loads of compost onto the bed which at over 200yards per trip was well over a mile. Large gardesn give you lots of exercise!!

Thursday April 23rd
Mild with sunny intervals.
Started to move the more hardy plants out of the polytunnel including the Godetia and Calendula. Once the beds are cleared I can start to plant these out. There is now room to start transplanting the less hardy plants into 3.5in pots, starting with the Impatiens. For this I use 1/3 spent coir compost and 2/3 sieved soil replenished with JI 3 fertiliser.

Most of the apple trees are now coming into blossom except for the Bramley which is always a little later. The pear trees are also flowering and the plum and cherry trees are now fertilised and dropping their petals. As usual most of the work has been done by tiny bumble bees, not honey bees or the big noisy bumbles. The strawberries in the polytunnel are also mainly fertilised, this time by tiny black ants and the white butterflies I mentioned a few days ago. Another three weeks and we should have our first strawberries!!

Continued to fill the pots containing the Lady Christl potatoes as they grow, half with soil and half with served rotted compost. The Arran Pilot are now fully earthed up in their pots and the foliage is at least 18inches above this. I must resist the temptation to empty one out to see if their are any new potatoes formed already.

Friday April 24th
Overcast but still dry and mild but with a cold breeze some of the time.

Dug over the bed where I shall be placing the Chrysanthemums in their pots. Once it has settled I will cover this with some compost as a mulch. The polytunnel is too warm for them so I moved them outside though not yet to this bed.

Saturday April 25th
Heavy rain during the night and morning but cleared up by the afternoon. Also cooler

Transplanted the petunias into 3.5in pots. Removed the secondary buds from the taller Chrysanthemums and placed 3 3ft canes in each pot encircled by several spirals of string.

Pat started to clear the flower beds down the side of the drive. The wallflowers in some of these beds have started to flower and the Sweet William should be starting soon as well.

Sunday April 26th.
At last a still day so we can place the fine net over the fruit cage. The cage is 16m square and 2m tall so the net is huge and can only be pulled over when there is very little wind. There is already a larger mesh net over the top of the cage to keep the pigeons out and this one goes over and is supported by it. It is to keep the birds off the strawberries and raspberries and also keeps most, but not all, of the butterflies off the brassicas. It has to come off in autumn because if it snows it will cause the whole structure to collapse. It takes a long time to stretch it evenly over all four edges, especially as it is not easy to reach from underneath. Finally plastic clips hold it down and make it fully bird proof.

Continued to weed the flower beds down the side of the drive.

Monday April 27th

Rained quite hard overnight and in the morning but improved to the odd drizzly shower in the afternoon. Plenty of transplanting to do in the polytunnel

Tuesday April 28th
Same as Monday!! All the water butts are full again.

Wednesday April 29th
A slightly better mainly dry day but with a cold breeze.

Continued to transplant bedding plants from 20 cell to 9 cell trays, mainly marigolds today. The tomatoes, still in pots, are tall enough to need short sticks to support them. It won't be long before they need planting into the ground so I need to start thinking about moving some of the beddng plants outside into cold frames.
Thursday April 30th
Heavy rain overnight and in the morning. Sunny intervals with light showers in the afternoon.

Continued to transplant the bedding plants into larger cells. Started to place short sticks in the pots containing the tomatoes and squashes to support them until the are large enough to plant in the ground. In the case of some of the courgettes this won;t be long; they already producing flowers.

May 1sr tomorrow and the forecast is good for the weekend