MAY 2011                                                                                                                                   APRIL 2011


Sunday 1st

9 to 18 to 11°C. Clear and sunny with a very strong easterly wind.


Pat continued to weed the brassicas. I started to sort out the cold frames ready to move the bedding plants out of the polytunnel later this month. Then back to watering. This wind is very drying. If we don't get some rain soon then it won't only be the newly planted and emerged plants which need regular watering. The primulas and polyanthus down the side of the drive and some of the perennials are beginning to wilt.


The cucumber and butternut squash are mainly germinated in the propagator and some of the runner beans and pumpkins are also through


Monday 2nd

7 to 15 to 6°C. Clear and sunny with an even stronger easterly wind. It may be quite cold tonight and tomorrow night.


Continued to sort out the cold frames. Made a start on planting some of the courgettes and squashes into their final pots, 7.5L for the courgettes and 10L for the Crown Prince and Sweet Dumpling squash. Using a very rich planting mixture of 60% leaf mold and 40% loam. Last year I tried planting them directly in the border of the polytunnel but this wasn't very successful so I have returned to using sunken pots again.


The forecast is for heavy rain by the end of this week. Hopefully they won't change their minds before then.


Tuesday 3rd

8 to 17 to 5°C. Clear and sunny with less of the easterly wind.


Spent another 2 hours watering, including the primulas and polyanthus down the drive which I have never had to worry about before. It isn't really doing much good other than just stopping the newly planted vegetables  dying. Only proper steady rain for a few hours will cure this now. I am worried that the onion sets, for instance, are going to start bolting; most of them only have three or four shoots and those have browning tips. Pat wanted to start thinning out the salads, turnips, spinach and beetroot but was worried the disturbing the dry soil, despite watering, would cause the seedling left to wilt.


Finished the final potting of the courgettes. Then started potting on the chrysanthemum cuttings.


Covered the early potato pots - a frost is forecast tonight.


Wednesday 4th

2 to 15 to 12°C. The wind is moving towards the south and is a lot moister with thin high clouds forming in the afternoon. Unfortunately the forecast has put back the rain till Saturday so more watering to keep things going till then. I am so pleased that we have our own water supply. Most people have metered mains water round here and if this was the case for us we would have the choice of leaving plants to die or paying for the extra water. Though of course ours isn't free, we need electricity to run the borehole pump.


Earthed up the maincrop potatoes. These are fortunately in a lower shadier part of the garden this year so their is still some moisture in the soil. After the next earthing up I will mulch them to try and conserve the moisture during the summer months. I expect to have to do this in summer but not in May!!


Continued to pot on the chrysanthemums and also the coleus.


Saw a couple of swallows on my bike ride this lunchtime. Maybe they will make a start on eating the thousands of squidgy black flies there are around at the moment. I get covered in them each time I go for a ride and they taste horrible if one ends up in my mouth.


Thursday 5th

10 to 17 to 13°C. A very different day. Mostly overcast and muggy with a Southerly wind and occasional light showers which just about wet the ground by nightfall. Looks to have been a lot more rain further North. More is forecast at the weekend.


Spent part of the afternoon removing a tree which had been blown down from the hedge by the recent strong winds. It was very old and only held up by ivy. Planted out some new Rosemary and Parsley in the herb garden. Then back to potting on and watering in the polytunnel. Some of the bedding plants are getting very big and many have started to flower, because of the warm weather and could really do with planting out but it is too risky yet since we may still get some frost. Maybe it will be safe to start moving them outside to harden off so long as I have some sheets of fleece to protect them at night.


Friday 6th

12 to 21 to 15°C. Overcast and very humid with a southerly wind. A few very light showers which hardly wet the flagstones and soon dried again.


The weather forecast seems pretty sure we are going to get some substantial rain in the next few days so we took the opportunity to thin out and weed the salad and vegetable crops, being assured they will be well watered soon. Continued to pot on the chrysanthemums and other bedding plants in the polytunne and start moving them outside where they might be watered by the weather for a change..


Saturday 7th

14 to 20 to 14°C. Overcast with occasional heavy showers becoming continuous rain in the everning.


The water butt attached to the conservatory rapidly filled up and isn't attached to the other 6 butts so I decided to move the water to the empty butt by the polytunnel, otherwise it would be wasted if it carried on raining overnight. You might think we are slightly mad doing this but it may revert back to another 6 weeks of drought after this weekend so making sure we collect at least the 2100L we can store is worthwhile just in case.


During a dry spell we removed the large weeds beneath the hedge along the roadside next to the vegetable garden and planted the trailing nasturtiums which I had been growing in pots. Some of them are already over a metre long and should wind their way nicely through the new hedge.


We had a quick look at the super early Swift and first early Lady Kristl potatoes growing in pots. Carefully turned out one of the pots to see how they were getting on and was pleased to see the new tubers are getting quite big, going on for the size of hens eggs; they should be big enough to start harvesting by next weekend.


There are also some strawberries starting to colour so maybe in another few days we will have our first new potatoes and strawberries of the year!!


Sunday 8th

14 to 17 to 14°C. Rained overnight and overcast with showers during the day.


Everything in the garden is looking much better after the rain, especially the onions and the peas and beans. Unfortunately the weeds like this weather too so I see plenty of weeding and hoeing in the next few days.


Monday 9th

12 to 15 to 12°C. Sunny intervals with heavy showers, some thundery.


I had a very bad asthma attack in the middle of the night so wasn't feeling well enough to do much. Pat continued to weed the vegetable garden, this time the peas and beans.


Tuesday 10th

12 to 16 to 12°C. Mostly overcast with a few sunny intervals and heavy showers.


Still not feeling too good but started to move the bedding plants out of the polytunnel into the cold frames so I can start planting out the rest of the tomatoes, the peppers and aubergines.


Pat continues to weed the vegetables and the beds down the side of the drive and round the roses.


Wednesday 11th

9 to 14 to 9°C. Sunny intervals and showers. Feeling much cooler.


For obvious reasons I don't like using chemicals in the garden but the lawn is mainly daisies, dandelions and thistles so decided it needed treating with a selective herbicide followed by a nitrogen boost. This showery weather is an ideal time to do this. Hopefully I won't react to the chemicals in the 'weed and feed' solution.


Decided to try the first new potatoes from the Swift and Lady Kristl pots. They are still quite small but one pot had more than enough for two of us and they were delicious lightly boiled only a couple of hours after picking them!!  Another week and the Swift should definitely be worth starting on.


Thursday 12th

8 to 13 to 8°C. Very similar weather to yesterday.

Not very well again in the night.

Earthed up the mid and late season potatoes again and started to put mulch between the rows but was too tired to finish it.


Pat managed to find enough ripe strawberries for herself. I will look forward to eating the next ones!! Until then I will continue eating the rest of the frozen raspberries from last year topped with greek yogurt - almost as delicious in my opinion.


Continued to move the squashes into their final pots and the chrysanthemum cuttings into 10cm pots. Many of the chrysanthemums kept over from last year have grown faster than usual with all the good weather last month and some need the crown bud pinching out to encourage lateral growths.


Friday 13th

8 to 13 to 6°. Overcast with a few sunny intervals, a cold westerly wind and intermittent rain showers.


Finished potting on the squashes and chrysanthemums and started on the peppers and aubergines.


Saturday 14th

6 to 13 to 7°C. Quite cold overnight and similar weather to yesterday.


Transplanted the last of the brassicas out into the fruit cage, an autumn flowering broccoli Claret.


Made a start planting out the bedding plants though these are actually winter bedding from last autumn which didn't really get going till sprint because of the frost. Dianthus,miniature double daisies and violas. They have been in their pots sunk into mulch in the beds near the house up till now and have been flowering well since late March but it is now time to prepare these beds for their summer planting. There is a bed near the bottom of the drive which is shady and dry so I thought I could prolong their life down there, maybe even get them to flower again in the autumn (all three are classified as short lived perennials rather than annuals), though they may need regular watering.


Finished potting on the peppers and aubergines.


Sunday 15th

9 to 13 to 11°C. Overcast with a few very light showers - not enough to wet the drive never mind water the garden. Feeling quite cold in the westerly breeze.


One of those days when you realise how well polytunnels trap the heat. There was no sign of the sun all day but even so the temperature inside was 18°C by 9am and up to 22°C in the afternoon.


Continued to mulch the mid- and late-season potatoes. Quite warm work so was glad of the cooler weather.


Monday 16th

9 to 14 to 12°C. Overcast and breezy.


Some plants are beginning to show signs of dehydration so it is back to watering again. Have almost run out of the rainwater we collected on the single day when it rained last week.


Started to move the chrysanthemum pots out of the polytunnel. They also will need regular watering.


Tuesday 17th

10 to 15 to 12°C. Similar weather to yesterday.


Pat noticed that some of the rose bushes have curled foliage towards the top of the stems. Looks like they are short of water too. I cannot remember ever having to water roses!!


Finished moving the chrysanthemums out of the polytunnel. Tomorrow I will start reorganising it for the squashes and peppers.


Wednesday 18th

13 to 15 to 11°C. Overcast at first then came quite dark and actually rained for a short time. Enough to make it not necessary to water for 2-3 days and even collected some in the water butts, Afterwards it was a little brighter than the last few days, even with the odd sunny interval.


Decided it was time to take the fleece of the brassicas and the salads. In the case of the lettuce and other salad leaves they still need covering with wire mesh to stop the rabbits eating them. The brassicas are all inside the fruit cage so are safe from rabbits and pigeons but cabbage moths and butterflies can get in so they need watching for caterpillars from now on. All look very healthy. Horticultural fleece is a wonderful innovation, especially in late winter and spring. It keeps moisture in  and cold out. You can see the difference at the end of a row of lettuce where it wasn't fully covered.


Some of the courgettes are flowering so it is time to spread the pots apart in the polytunnel and leave the door open during the day to attract the bumblebees in. Trouble is they only seem interested in the raspberries at the moment. Even the broad beans aren't being visited much and they also won't grow until they are fertilised.


Thursday 19th

6 to 15 to 10°C. Brighter day with some sunshine in the afternoon and less breezy


Nothing much to report. Continued to tidy up the garden and polytunnel. Pat mowed the lawn.


Friday 20th

9 to 17 to 9°. Sunny intervals and a few very light showers. Strong SW breeze.


A rabbit got into the fruit cageSurprised. Searched round and found a place where something had bitten a hole in the netting near the ground. More likely a squirrel rather than the rabbit but assumed it had found its way in through there. It didn't seem interested in the cabbages or the strawberries, just some of the weeds and grass, but I don't want it to get the chance of trying them and deciding it liked them. So I repaired the hole and for good measure piled some soil against it as well.


Two hours later it was inside again and this time we couldn't find a hole anywhere. We chased it and it appeared to just go straight through the mesh without stopping. Houdini rabbit?


Saturday 21st

8 to 14 to 8°C. Bright to start but became quite dark by late afternoon with a blustery wind. Rain is forecast during the night.


We are now picking enough strawberries for both of us every day.

That rabbit is still finding its way into the fruit cage and we cannot work out how it does it. It doesn't seem interested in eating any thing we want to eat, just grass and dandelions.

Planted out the 4th row of peas, some more Early Onward.


Sunday 22nd

9 to 15 to 11°C. Rained a little in the night. Enough to wet the garden but not much collected in  water butts. Then became brighter with quite a lot of sunshine but still very windy.


I have nearly finished re-organising the polytunnel for its summer crops.


Monday 23rd

12 to 15 to 9°C. Overcast and windy. though nothing like what they are getting in Scotland at the moment.


Back to watering all the potatoes, chryanthemums, lilies and other plants in pots. I really may have to consider changing the way I garden if these very dry Springs are going to happen every year.


Started sinking the pots containing the courgette plants into the polytunnel borders.


Tuesday 24th

9 to 15 to 9°C. Sunny but still with a strong cool breeze.


Finally the Bristol onions I sowed in February are big enough to plant out. It takes a long time to get them going but they have the advantage over onion sets of hardly ever bolting, ripening much later in year, and keeping much better over winter. We only finished using them early in April so Pat only has to buy onions for a few weeks every year. Home grown onions are also much tastier than bought ones.


Wednesday 25th

12 to 17 to 13°C. A few sunny intervals and less breezy.


What a commotion in the hedge behind the house this lunchtime. There were a pair of crows and 5 or 6 magpies all squabbling over something on the ground. I went out to have a look what they were fussing about and found a dead magpie already partly eaten, presumably by the crows. Whether they had found it already dead or sick and killed it I don't know but it appears that the other magpies were trying to defend it.


As I write this (11pm) I can hear it raining on the roof of the conservatory. Whether it will last who knows? We could certainly do with some proper rain after 8 weeks with only a few light showers. Thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow but will probably miss us just like all the other rain we have been forecast in the last couple of weeks, going just North or South of us every time.


Thursday 26th

10 to 13 to 10°C. Overcast and windy with occasional showers and some light drizzle in between.


Well it did rain but not a lot, and certainly none of the promised thundery showers. The water butt attached to the conservatory had about an extra 120L of water in it. The area of the comservatory is about 20sqm so that works out at around 6mm or 1/4in of rain altogether. Not much but more than we have had altogether over the last 6 weeks or so. Enough to wet the top of the soil but still dry underneath and by the late afternoon even the surface was drying out again.


Took advantage of the cool conditions to dismantle the concrete-block boxes inside the polytunnel - not a job for a sunny day with the temperature inside often well above 30°C. Tomorrow I will start to plant out the peppers, aubergines and squashes, which the boxes were protecting, directly into the borders they were covering.


Friday 27th

9 to 13 to 10°C. Rained a little overnight. Cloudy with occasional sunny spells and light rain, though no amounting to much.


We discovered how the rabbit was getting inside the fruit cage by watching how it escaped. What looked like inpenetrable thick plastic netting had actually been cut enough to form a hole to push through and then close behind; so it wasn't very obvious. I soon fixed the hole by patching it with some spare mesh left over from building the fruit cage. Hopefully another one won't appear elsewhere

Whose teeth, rabbit or squirrel? had done this isn't clear. The rabbit doesn't seem to be eating anything other than grass and weeds inside the cage whereas squirrels definitely like strawberries. It isn't obvious when a squirrel has taken a strawberry since they eat all of them, unlike blackbirds who peck the red parts out of half ripened ones, doing a lot more damage. That is the point about squirrels; I don't mind them stealing a few strawberries from the fruit cage or peanuts from the bird feeders so long as they don't damage the netting or metal mesh while doing it.


Blackbirds and thrushes, on the other hand, need to be kept away from the strawberries since they damage far more than they actually eat. It also appears that the rabbit is causing damage, not inside the fruit cage but elsewhere in the vegetable garden, by eating the tops off the newly planted peas. Easy to fix by putting the pea netting up round the row earlier than we would normally need to do it for them to climb up. They should recover by growing new shoots from the bottom. Rabbits are after-all natures pruners.


Saturday 28th

10 to 16 to 11°C. Breezy with a few sunny intervals and short heavy showers. More like April than late May.


Transferred the runner beans into pots. They still need to stay in the polytunnel until I am fairly certain we won't have any more frosty nights. The climbing beans and early dwarf french beans are still OK in their trays.


Sunday 29th

8 to 15 to 9°C. Breezy with a few sunny intervals.


Another hole appeared in the bottom of the fruit cage netting. This time I have blocked it with galvanised netting instead. Looks like it could be rabbits though still can't see any damage to the plants inside.


Started moving out the troughs I planted out a couple of weeks ago with bedding plants.


Monday 30th

10 to 13 to 8°C. Rained overnight and most of the morning. Nice steady fine rain which soaks into the ground. Filled the butt attached to the conservatory so I transferred some of it to the 6 main butts attached to the rest of the house roof. Altogether around 1500L so we will have plenty to water in the crops I am about to plant inside the polytunnel.


Three more holes appeared in the fruit cage netting and signs that the rabbit has developed a taste for the broccoli plants. So we have ordered some rabbit netting to go all the way round the cage,


The joys of living in the countryside!!

Squirrels eating the bird food and damaging the feeders fixed by enclosing the feeders in an upside down slippery sided acrylic box hanging from greased poles at least 120cm above the ground,

Magpies and mice digging up the young pea plants to get at the seed fixed by sowing them in rows covered with fine mesh galvanised netting.

Blackbirds and thrushes eating the strawberries, raspberries and cherries, pigeons eating the brassicas, fixed by  buying a (very expensive) fruit cage.

Carrots damaged by carrot fly fixed by sowing and growing entirely under fleece.

Rabbits biting their way into the fruit cage, hopefully fixed by placing rabbit  netting all round it.

Some problems we never have solved is stopping mice taking peas and beans and even worse sweet corn and other animals (badgers?) digging up potatoes and knocking over the sweet corn. In these cases it is just a case of tolerating the damage, or in the case of sweet corn just giving up growing it, especially as the last time we tried squirrels also joined in.


If it wasn't for the fact that home grown produce is so much nicer and fresher it would be easier and maybe cheaper to buy fruit and vegetables instead.


Tuesday 31st

8 to 16 to 9°C. A few showers overnight and in the morning. Sunny intervals by afternoon. the water butts are now nearly full.


Looks like the weather is going to stay mild so decided to start planting out the summer bedding, already hardened off in the cold frames, into the beds now cleared of wallflowers. French and African Marigold, Antirrhinum, Nicotinia, Petunia and Mimulus. There will then be room to move the more delicate Geraniums and Begonias out of the polytunnel into the cold frames. These can be planted in the spaces cleared once the Sweet William are finished.


JUNE 2011