4 May 2011

April roundup... Update (2)

Several blogs that I like to read have posted an end of month review and I'm going to follow suit.  I can't think why I haven't done this before as it seems a really good way of keeping track of progress (or, in my case, lack of) month by month.

It pays me to remember that I mustn't compare the state of play in the veg patch with progress elsewhere; after all, it's not a competition but it is really useful to see what other, more experienced gardeners have already planted out or got on the go. It's interesting to see what's happening in different parts of the UK and, in Canada, the Urban Veggie Garden is just experiencing the first flush of Spring. Early sowing can depend on access to a greenhouse (which I don't have) or perhaps having wide windowsills to accommodate seed trays indoors (I'm deficient in that area as well).

I confess, there hasn't been as much sowing progress as I would have hoped (I've been spending a fair bit of time digging out weeds, moving raised beds forward to maximise space and putting a scaffolding plank alongside the path, on the right above). But with this unseasonably warm weather, I have to remind myself that it is only just May so there's still plenty a bit of time.  What I have got is lots of sweet peas in toilet rolls on the balcony (Cupani, Mixed Spice, Perfume Duet), which have recently been joined by Lazy Housewife (kindly sent from Matron) and Cosse de Violette beans started off in pots. Sweet corn (Lark and Sparrow - are those real varieties?) will be started off this weekend, as will courgettes (Striata D'Italia), pumpkins and squashes. I'm experimenting with growing melons this year (soon to be sown in a very warm spot) and have chosen Blacktail Mountain watermelon and Minnesota Midget canteloupe from The Real Seed Company. By the end of May, I hope also to have just a couple of bush cherry tomato plants and some peppers on the go.  It's said, "wishing's one thing, doing's another" so we'll see...

Back outside, Onions (Hyred and Snowball, above) have been growing in the veg patch for the past month, with Fiorentino Spinach planted in between the red onions (below). The first two rows of Spinach are ready to be picked as baby leaves and the next two rows of seeds were sown over the bank holiday weekend:

Potatoes (Blue Danube, Charlotte and Vivaldi) have sprung up from potatoes mistakenly left in the ground last year (gosh, I feel I'm really baring my soul here! - the veg patch has practically planted itself) but I have actually myself sown three varieties of beetroot (Perfect 3 and Cheltenham green tops for myself and Chioggia for my friend who runs our local deli and likes this variety, which I don't.) The fox chased a mouse over that bed last Friday night, scattering the soil, so it will be a test to see if I can tell the difference as (or if) they grow!

I'd like to have shown the progress in the garlic bed, with 3 rows of Amsterdam carrots companionably sown in between. Sadly, this is not be just yet as a fox (the same one?) dug deep into the bed last Monday and disturbed all the planting. It would seem he was (successfully) after a bird that had probably flown down to pull up my garlic! I guess that's nature for you and, judging by the wing feathers, I think it was a blue jay.  Very beautiful. (Sorry to be so macabre with the photo. I didn't know what it was and wanted to identify the bird, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

The disturbance has blown my garlic experiment out of the water: I'd planted a row of cloves saved from last year's home-grown garlic, a row of store-bought Porcelain Garlic (Music) and a couple of rows of T&M Sicilian Red garlic. I'd hoped to compare the success rate of the different sources. Now who knows what will pop up where? Fingers crossed it isn't as bad as it looks!

I have a couple of beds waiting to be planted up at the end of the month with the courgettes, etc, and buckets of rescued red orache (atriplex rubra) - self-seeded from one tiny garden sale plant. The seedlings were carefully transferred to recycled flower shop buckets before I dug over the bed. (I hate abandoning plants, and will do the same with my beetroot thinnings.) The intention is to replant these around the raised beds with plenty of other flowers to liven up the view.

I've previously written about the rampant growing going on in the herb bed and now the horseradish has flowered (above).  Oh my goodness, whatever next! I have no idea what this plant will do next but have read online of people mowing it down to keep it under control - which seems a bit drastic! Equally, I don't know if this is what should be happening with a second year plant and if the roots will still be edible.  (If anyone does know, I'd appreciate the advice.)

Elsewhere in the herb bed, evidence of last year's self-seeding is apparent:  parsley, coriander, fennel and sunflowers mingle happily together with a few strawberries (from runners).  Actually, I rather like this - at least for now!

That's probably enough for today.  I'll save news of the fruit and flowers for tomorrow but I'd like to leave you with this photo which fills me with hope:  if I'm right, those are ladybird eggs on my fennel so the greenfly on my red Orache had better watch out!

By the way, credit where credit is due:  I was inspired to write this End of Month View by Helen/The Patient Gardener, Janet/Plantalicious, Karen/The Garden Smallholding and Flighty/Flighty's Plot.


  1. Wow - so much going on, plus one fox deteriminted to wreak havoc with your organisation!

  2. Hi Rachel! I fully expect you'll be in the same position (minus the fox!) once you get going with your growing! Caro xx

  3. I love your herby jumble! I can never grow enough coriander, and my parsley is currently in a deep sulk. Your patch looks pretty ace to me, speaking as a newbie, and I am filing away interplanting onions with spinach for future reference. learning to make the most of a patch of ground is my biggest challenge, I think, closely followed by working out how to grow parsnips... And it can't be too late yet, I have way too many things still to sow!

  4. Thank you for your kind comments, Janet! My coriander was grown from seed last year and didn't really do much. This year, it's sprung to life - perhaps it fares better in it's second year? I wonder why your parsley is sulking - I chopped mine back in it's second year, it regrew but bolted quickly, set seed and that's what's growing this year. I have packets of bought parsley seed that aren't needed! And yes, I'm always tucking seeds into any patches of bare earth for a bit of space saving. Radishes would be another quick crop between slower growing onions, parsnips, etc. Caro xx

  5. You've certainly been busy during the month! You must be well pleased, and rightly so, as it's all looking and sounding good.
    It's sad to see that something, probably a cat, got a jay rather than a pigeon! Jays are lovely birds which I rarely catch more than a glimpse of. It's just a jay by the way as blue jays are a North American bird.
    Thanks for the linked mention!
    Flighty xx

  6. Caroline (gone to seed)6 May 2011 at 16:13

    You've been busy! I love your idea of sowing spinach in between rows of onions - am going to head down to the allotment tomorrow and copy that one...

  7. Flighty, Like you, I felt rather sad at seeing such a beautiful bird killed. I don't know much about birds so thanks for putting me right about the name; I hope I may see one now, as they're obviously about.

    Caroline, hello and welcome! it's a funny thing but it seems that the list of things to do just gets longer no matter how busy I've been! However, I've now managed to get a few seeds in modules, ready to plant out at the end of the month - the End of Month view has given me a target to work towards!

    Caro xx

  8. Enjoyed your end of month view Caro. I love seeing what other folk are growing. We both have 'Lazy Housewife' beans from Matron so will have to compare notes. I was taken with the name. I have had a couple of rogue spuds appear too and ironically they escaped frost damage whilst my 2011 planted potato foliage has been scorched :(

  9. Wow you have been busy! I agree, it's good to make a note of what you have achieved each month, as a reminder if anything else! There is so much to do once May comes, I'm still finding packets of seed that I forgot to sow, oops!

    That is sad about the Jay, one of my favourite garden birds. Lovely photos too Caro, it's always a pleasure to see your patch x


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