It’s been a while since my last post – I suppose at this glorious but hectic time of year any spare time I’ve had has been spent doing actual gardening rather than writing about it! It seems like there is always an extensive to-do list for an allotmenteer in May, and it can certainly feel overwhelming. I seem to have unexpectedly become a ‘morning person’ this month, waking unusually early at 6.30am (early by my standards, anyway!) and getting an hour or two in the allotment before work – I think this probably constitutes a new level of maturity for me, particularly when I find myself having just a small glass of wine on a Friday night because I’ll be up early the next morning gardening…! I’m not sure what the 18 year old me would have thought, but I have grown to love the early morning light, the fresh air, the bird song, and the fact that nobody else is in the allotment site at 7am – call me antisocial, but I do love being alone on the plot from time to time.
Here’s a bit of a summary of what I’ve been up to recently:
Planting, planting and more planting
Planting out seedlings always seems to take much longer than I anticipate. This is probably in part because I spend a lot of time wandering around the plot deep in thought trying to decide where on earth I’m going to fit the extra 24 beetroot plugs that I sowed the previous month on a whim. I’ve planted out most things, but still not my squashes (including courgettes) nor my climbing beans – these will go in soon, but are perfectly happy in the polytunnel having been repotted where necessary.
New plantings grow quickly at this time of year given a regular supply of water. We never seem to lose many to slugs – I can only assume that this is down to a combination of the fact that our seedlings are normally quite large when they go in the ground and that we keep the surface of the raised beds clear of decaying plant debris so there is no habitat or regular food for them. It’s not all plain sailing though – pigeons will shred anything that looks even remotely like a brassica so we fleece young plants and then net them (thus also in theory avoiding caterpillars), and the local cat population seem to think it’s hilarious to dig holes in the surface compost of our raised beds (thus digging up any recently planted seedlings at the same time) so I’ve been laying a lattice of bamboo canes over beds which seems to be deterring them (and looks rather artistic, I like to think….).
Some new crops are starting to come through – we’ve had the first young broad beans of the year, fresh garlic, lots of lettuce, coriander, agretti thinnings, pea shoots, radishes and more rhubarb than we need.
I’ve been comparing New Horizon and Sylvagrow peat-free composts – initially I thought New Horizon was looking marginally better, but in all cases growth beyond the seedling stage has been much better with Sylvagrow (see pic!). New Horizon seems to hold a lot of water initially which probably explains why germination was slightly quicker, but plants seem to struggle with its poorer drainage as they grow on. Sylvagrow is slightly more expensive, but on the basis of this trial it’s well worth the money for larger, healthier plants.
A mulberry, and a nice bottle of wine
I love it when the postman brings me new plants and alcohol in the same weekend – this occurred a few weeks ago as one of Sutton’s new dwarf mulberry bushes ‘Charlotte Russe’ arrived, as did a bottle of wine from Otter Farm. The mulberry (RHS Chelsea plant of the year don’t you know!) is a bit of a breakthrough in breeding – it stays compact (1.5m high), produces seedless fruit, and it fruits in its first year (rather than the 8-10 year wait that most mulberry trees take to produce). I’ve repotted it (in Sylvagrow, naturally) and it’s now showing some encouraging new growth. It should be a lovely addition to the summer berry repertoire.
Anyway, that’s a snapshot of what’s happening here in our small Tyneside plot. Are you managing to keep on top of the to-do list at this busy time of year? Here’s hoping for more sun, and a bit more rain too…..