May – the force is with you

May is the month when the waiting is over. Whatever the weather, it’s pretty-much-definitely warm enough for direct sown seeds to take-off unabated. The seesaw tips here, from spring into summer and it’s the perfect time to get those seeds in situ.

If you’ve been patient enough to wait until May, then good on you… your patience will be rewarded by fast, strong , climate-appropriate growth that, in my experience, outstrips earlier indoor-reared, battery-farmed seedlings.

I took the plunge earlier in the year, with broad beans, carrots, beetroot, parsnips, garlic, courgettes (covered), runner beans, lettuces, basil, spring onions and radishes… I’ve already polished off the first sowing of radishes, and need to find space to plant some more. Due to the wonderful warm weather we had through April and May, and some watering, everything is going great guns, or just starting to push up…except:

Something that has been completely obliterated, I confess, is my beetroot. Not by slugs or snail, not by frosts or the lack of rain, not by mice or pigeons… but by those cheeky hedge sparrows. They particularly love sweet beetroot seedlings, and the tips of the peas, I notice, have also been nibbled this year. Last year it was the Swiss chard, which I wasn’t too bothered about. But a summer without beetroot? Hell, no! I’ll just have to make sure I cover the next sowings with netting.

And I have yet to see the squash appear. I direct sowed some Uchiki Kuri a few weeks ago, along with the runner beans, to ascend my new cathedralesque structure. Beans: yes, squash: no… Probably went in a bit too early. I’ll sow a couple more before the weekend, just in case.

May is a good time to start watering in a seaweed solution round the fruit and veg, which takes growth into overdrive on May’s gearstick. I use Organic Maxicrop Seaweed Extract, which I find particularly good at reviving tired potted plants.

May is also a good time to mulch in between the plants to keep moisture in and weeds out. Yes, it’s another thing to do but it means more time to enjoy your garden in the height of summer. Less time spent watering and weeding means more time pottering, preening, admiring and enjoying!

Of course, there are some more exotic plants that do need to be started off in the warmth of greenhouses if we are to get any decent crop by the end of the summer. Although I grew some aubergines outdoors last year, I really want much more of them, and sooner, this year. And the heartbreak of tomatoes getting blight is too much to bear if you’ve reared them from seed. To get minimum stress and maximum joy, I’ve decided to leave the first stage to the experts this year, and I had a great morning a few weeks ago at Pennard Plants sale (their nursery is based in a beautiful old walled garden, up the road in East Pennard) selecting some really healthy specimens. I chose a couple of grafted peppers and aubergines, which I’m really excited about, and a Black Russian tomato. I also picked up a couple of pairs of tomatoes from outside the village shop (San Marzano and Bloody Butcher), brought on by a local with a greenhouse. And 2 outdoor cucumbers from another village’s plant sale.

A morning’s shop at Pennard Plants, also included buying a Szechuan Peppercorn tree and admiring their Chelsea Flower Show preparations

Have a look around at your local newspapers, and find out if any local plant sales are on in your area. It’s a thrill to find healthy, strong plants at great prices. So much better than taking pot-luck with online offerings. And there’s usually cake!

All of my purchases (bar one cucumber) have been planted in my mum’s greenhouse. When she wasn’t looking, I had a good clear out, throwing out heaps of collected plastic food trays, bottles and yoghurt pots. Mum’s getting pretty poor-sighted now, and I’m hoping she won’t notice quite how much of her precious plastic I’ve thrown out and how much space I’ve filled with my plants.

I’ll leave you with some more snaps from around the garden. It really has been beautiful and, although we all need more rain, I really hope that sunny warm weather returns to us soon.

What have you been up to this month? How has the long dry spell effected your gardening? 

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