Friday May 1st 2009
Woke up to a sunny morning though it became cloudier as the day progressed.

Continued to transplant the bedding plants into larger cells or 3.5in pots.

Saturday, Sunday May 2-3
Weather mainly dry with sunny intervals but with a cold breeze. We noticed the sheep in the field behind our house had been shorn; I hope they are not feeling cold!!

We finished weeding and turning over the beds down the drive and near the house. The wallflowers down the drive are now in full flower. I had a few left unplanted from last autumn plus some spare Sweet Williams so I did some instant gardening planting them in one of the beds near the house.

Moved the pots of tulips, which have now finished, from the front of the house and replaced them with pots of short stemmed chrysanthemums and lilies. The latter are very close to flowering. No frost is forecast so they should be OK to harden off.

Sunday afternoon was quite chilly so I retreated into the greenhouse, clearing the remains of the cucumber and aubergines from last year.

Monday May 4th
Typical Bank Holiday weather!! It rained overnight and continued on and off most of the day and there is still that chilly wind.

Pat did some weeding in the polytunnel, especially the strawberries which are quite close to ripening and will do so if we get some sunny weather, otherwise they are more likely to go mouldy. I continued with some more transplanting, including some of the chrysanthemum cuttings which have taken nearly 100%

Tuesday May 5th
A drier day but still with a strong cold breeze.

The final lot of plug plants came from Jersey; the mystery gift which turned out to be some scarlet geraniums. I planted these into 12 cell half trays.

Wednesday May 6th
Similar weather to yesterday.

The early chrysanthemum cuttings finally arrived so I transplanted these into 3.5in pots. No frost is forecast for a few days so I started to move some of the larger bedding plants outside to harden off. The petunias, some of which are already starting to flower, and the Lime Green Nicotinia. These go into cold frames built using breeze blocks. If it does come cold at night I can place polycarbonate sheets or fleece on top to protect them.

Thursday May 7th
Yet another cold showery day. Continued to wprk in the polytunnel, moving more plants into the cold frames.

Friday May 8th
Cold and showery in the morning but improved in the afternoon but the wind was even stronger.

The outside planted potatoes are through so lifted off the woven polythene sheeting. We scraped off the soil from one of the pots of Arran Pilot in the polytunnel. There were lots of small tubers growing but not big enough yet to use.

Fruit has set well on the cherry tress and one of the plums in the front garden; the other plum never flowered (?). The apple trees also have a good set of baby fruits. The Bramley is still flowering but with less blossom than last year but this is because I gave it a heavy prune in the winter. Less blossom means less fruit but that also means bigger apples which is what you want with a Bramley.

Saturday May 9th
A better day with more sun, less wind and only a few short showers.

Planted out the rest of the onions while Pat weeded the beds of earlier onions. Started to plant wome of the hardy bedding, Godetia and Calendula in the bed at the bottom of the drive.

There are three strawberries colouring up in the polytunnel and many more starting to swell in the bed of the earliest variety outside.

Heard a cuckoo this afternoon. I though I heard one last week but wasn't sure since some of the wood pigeons sometimes make a similar two note call rather that their usual five note cu cu coo coo coo. This time it was definitely a cuckoo. The first I have heard for severak years, perhaps the first this century. They used to be so common but not recently.

Sunday May 10th
Another sunny day but the wind has increased again.

Continued to move out the bedding plants from the polytunnel and generally tidy up.

Monday May 11th
Sunny and windy. Plenty to do in the polytunnel where the temperature reached 34°C. including planting out the tomato plants, 5 Bejbino, 12 Marmande and 16 Shirley.

Tuesday May 12th
Another sunny but windy day.

Started to move the squashes into pots using an equal mix of sieved rotted compost and soil. The cucumbers go into 17L pots which I will move into the greenhouse once they have got their roots down. The squashes and courgettes go into 7.5L pots for the time being. Later I will move them into the borders of the polytunnel and maybe a few outside if it looks like a reasonable summer. Last year was so bad that those I planted outside just rotted away!!

Picked the first strawberries of the year in the polytunnel. Delicious.

Wednesday May 13th
Another sunny windy day with a few showers

Something has been in the garden overnight and trashed the rhubarb!! I have no idea what but somehow it managed to go past either the onions or the potatoes without damaging them at all and then trample and rip out almost every rhubarb stem. It is a good job we still have some frozen plums in the freezer. It will be some time before stewed rhubarb is on the menu again.

Thursday May 14th

Similar mixed weather. Continued to work outside when dry and in the polytunnel when wet

Friday May 15th
It rained overnight but cleared up in the afternoon for a while. Finished transplanting the squashes and peppers into pots. The melon plants don't look very happy after the last few days of coldish nights and mostly overcast days; always a risk with melons in late spring that they succumb to damping of the stems and very difficult to prevent. Some probably won't survive which saves me wondering where I was going to find room for 12 plants!! One of the cucumber plants has the same problem but 4 should be more than enough - the best one already has two small fruits starting to swell on it.

Saturday May 16th
Heavy rain overnight and continued overcast and showery during the morning. When it finally cleared up in the afternoon I managed to start clearing the big weeds from the new garden but was interrupted by a thunderstorm. Looks like we are going into a cycle of thrunderstorms followed by the sun sucking the moisture back into the sky onlt to cause another storm.

Sunday May 17th
More rain and wind most of the day. I have finished most of the work in the polytunnel for the time being and it is too soggy outside to do much other than cutting the tops off the bigger weeds..

Monday-Tuesday May 18-19
More sunny intervals and heavy showers. Continued to remove the larger weeds from the new garden and less cultivated parts.

Wednesday May 20th
Rained overnight and during the morning but cleared up in the afternoon.

We are now picking quite a few strawberries each day from the polytunnel and it won't be long before they start ripening outside. There are also courgettes and squashes set and swelling on some of the plants and a regular supply of cut and come lettuce for my Brie and Lettuce sandwich for lunch.

Thursday May 21st
A slightly better day with some sunny intervals and a few short but heavy showers. The evening was mild and sunny so we went for a walk round the back lanes - the first for several days.

It may be starting to warm up at last giving a chance to start planting out some of the summer bedding this weekend. Meanwhile I planted out the Onward and Alderman peas. The latter go down the outside of the fruit net - they grow nearly 2m high and need the support.

Friday May 22nd
Definitely an improvement in the weather today and hopefully over the weekend.

Pat started to weed the sunny herbaceous border. There are plenty of flowers starting there so I may take some photographs this weekend.
Meanwhile I finished putting 3ft canes and strings round the Excellenz and Onward peas and then potted on the coleus.

Saturday May 23rd
A really sunny and warm day.

There is an enormous pile of hedge shrub and tall grass cuttings to shred and I have hardly started on the brash from the the ash tree we had pollarded during winter. This is because it was too wet the shred. Now it has finally stopped raining I got the shredder out and started on the this pile. I did about a quarter of it, enough to half fill one of the compost bins but it is hard work and the weather, warm and humid, didn't make it any easier. So after lunch I decided it should be OK to start planting out the summer bedding.

Our summer bedding is another example of what I call serendipitous gardening - if you have an empty space fill it with whatever you have ready at the time. I never pre-plan where to put anything in the garden, though obviously I have an overall plan of what I am going to order or grow in any particular year and need to place plants in an environment which suits them, sun or shade, wet or dry, and their overall height influences where they go in a border.

In the case of flowers I like to keep as much as possible full with plants all the year round. This is especially the case with the long borders down the drive and behind the house where I have polyanthus, primula and small spring bulbs permanently planted along the front of most of them for a early spring display. I plant biennials like pansies and violas in the fronts not occupied by the early spring plants and wallflowers and Sweet William in up to half of the beds behind. These give a later display right into late June. The other half of these beds can be planted with the summer bedding as soon as the risk of frost diminishes (I have known it happen in the middle of June but this is very unusual). These spaces are filled with whatever is ready, and hardened off, placing groups of 8-12 plants randomly, except for height. As groups of biennials die back I replace these in the same way. Since I have varying success in the number of each plant I have grown, from seed or bought in mini-plugs, the final result is different every year. Later on I do the same with the biennials, filling spaces as the summer bedding dies back, so the placing of these varies each year as does the placing of the next years summer bedding.

If bedding plants become ready before there is room for them it is very important not to just leave them in their cell trays. They must be planted into larger cells or small pots to stop their roots becoming too matted. I have found that if you ever let this happen they just stop growing and don't fulfil their potential even after planting out. Extra work if you have to do this but well worth it and it is something which can be done when it is raining or cold and windy. The other advantage is that these potted plants can be used to fill spaces in mid season or may be suitable for potting on for use in the conservatory. Of course this can only be done if you have a large garden with 'secret' spaces to keep these plants till they are required.

Sunday May 24th
A slightly more overcast but still warm day. By evening it had cleared and we went for a long walk round the back lanes.

Continued to plant out the summer bedding down the drive.

Monday May 25th
Just for once not a bad day for a Bank Holiday with sunny spells and quite warm. Became cloudy and showery in the late afternoon.

Planted out the brassica seedlings in the fruit cage; calabrese,early and purple sprouted broccoli, brussel sprouts, red kale and minicole cabbage.

Tuesday May 26th
Showery and cool in the morning with heavy rain in the afternoon.

Dug over the border in front of the greenhouse so I could sow some salad and small vegetable crops but was interrupted by the rain so took the opportunity to fasten up the strings for the the tomatoes in the polytunnel. They haven't grown tall enough to start training them up yet but it is a good job for a rainy day especially as Pat is off school for half term and this is a job for two saving me having to climb up and down a step ladder for each string.

Wednesday May 27th
Stopped raining but became very overcast and humid. Cleared by the evening for our walk.

Moved the cucumbers into the greenhouse. 4 of the 5 have survived and this is enough for our needs. There are already several fruits starting to swell on them. Each is in a 17L polypot which till now was only half full; now they have been moved they can be filled, covering another 10cm of stem which will form more roots. The pot is placed on a 10cm layer of rotted compost which must be kept moist to encourage the drinking roots to leave the bottom of the pot with the feeding roots still inside. Fastened five strings for  each over the ridge wires from one side of the greenhouse to the other, 1 string for the main stem and 4 for the side shoots I will allow to grow. soon if we get good weather we should be getting a cucumber every day and you will need to duck to get at them.

The other border of the greenhouse is for peppers or aubergines. I haven't decided which yet and none are big enough to transplant yet anyway.

Turned out the first pot of Arran Pilot for a crop of just over 500g fresh new potatoes. Not bad for the first pot of over 20 and then there are another 16 pots of Lady Christl. After sieving the soil and mixing with a little sieved compost and JI3 base fertiliser this was used to fill up the cucumber pots. We had some of the potatoes for dinner - much tastier and fresher than any you can buy!!

Sowed the border in front of the greenhouse with short rows of salads and small vegetables. 3 kinds of carrot, onions, beetroot and turnip. Mixed salad leaves, cut and come lettuce, cos lettuce, radish and baby spinach.

Thursday May 28th
A sunny warm day with little wind and much lower humidity. It really feels like summer at last.

Finished planting out the summer bedding down the drive in the spaces not still filled with wallflowers, which have nearly finished, and Sweet William, which is about to start. Started to move the rest of the bedding plants out of the polytunnel to harden off outside so I can make room inside for the peppers and squashes and maybe a few early French Beans.

Friday May 29th
Even warmer today. 24 outside and 32 in the polytunnel even with the door open.

The cucumber plants I moved to the greenhouse yesterday started to wilti n the heat so I hung up a sheet of horticultural fleece to shade them from the direct sunlight. Once they have grown more roots from the covered stem they will bev better able to cope with this.

Continued to move the bedding plants out of the polytunnel. Only the begonias and geraniums are still inside along with the pots of begonia and gloxinia tubers many of which will eventually go onto the conservatory windowsills. They can stand the heat and will grow faster with it.

Also moved out the chrysanthemum cuttings/ I will 'stop' these tomorrow.

Saturday May 30th

A very hot day with strong sunshine making it necessary to stay in the shade between 11:00 and 14:00. Reached 27C by the middle of the afternoon

The potatoes in pots still in the polytunnel started to wilt so I decided to move them out to a shady spot nearby and give them a good watering. They soon started to recover. I was about to move them out anyway since it is time to start spreading out the squashes in the their pots.
 This includes the 8 surviving melon plants which I sunk into the ground in the middle border and started to build a framework of 2m canes to support them.

Sunday May 31st
Another hot day.
Moved the Crown Prince and Sweet Dumpling Squash plant pots also into the middle beds like the melons and build more cane supports for them. The rest of the squashes and courgettes are not climbers so they can be moved into the polytunnel borders.

I am now spending a lot of time each day watering not just the plants still in the polytunnel and the bedding plants waiting in the cold frames but even some of the bedding already planted and the brassicas I planted last week need watering every day while this hot dry spell continues. I have nearly used up all the rainwater so will need to use some from the well soon.

Just after lunch I discovered there was no water in the house. The well pump was not working. We had not noticed since the light indicating it was working was still on in its control box in the house. Investigated this to find the capacitor had failed, indeed it had completely melted!! left a message on the water engineers telephone to ring me tomorroow. Meanwhlle we managed to get some water from one of our neighbours in two 5 gallon containers to use for cooking washing  and teeth cleaning etc. We still have a little rain water left to use for flushing the toilet. The plants will have to do without till this is fixed.