May 2012

It is always busy this time of year in the kitchen garden and the cold spell at the beginning of May proved to make the simplest of tasks more difficult. The direct sowing of vegetable seeds had to be delayed until the weather, and the soil, warmed up. Peas, mangetout, cabbage and courgettes were all planted out under the cover of horticultural fleece, and tomatoes were potted on to prevent them becoming pot bound.
Young flowering plants of echinops, eryngiums, lupins, knautia and aquilegia also had to be potted on this month, before they are hardened off ready to be planted out into their final positions.
As soon as the weather improved it was every plant for itself as the race was on for which plant could put the most growth on in the shortest amount of time. It was also time to catch up on the direct sowing of vegetables, give the box balls a clip over and do the Chelsea chop. The Chelsea chop, for those of you that do not already know, is basically a procedure whereby you reduce the height of a perennial plant by up to a third. This is done is around the time of the Chelsea flower show, hence the name Chelsea chop. It can be undertaken on plants such as heleniums and sedum and it produces a shorter, stockier plant with more flowers, albeit a little later.
One particular warm day I checked on the plants in the greenhouse before leaving for work to find that some were looking rather sorry for themselves and were in need of a stiff drink and some shade from the sun. The warmer, sunnier spell had caught me off guard and I had to get the greenhouse shading up quick smart in order to give the young plants in there some protective cover, otherwise I could have lost the lot.
Despite the temperatures improving there has been a lack of bees and butterflies in the garden, but
the cold temperatures do not appear to have affected the birds. The blue tits are nesting in the box and have been busy feeding their young. Whilst they were going through a period when the adult blue tits were moulting, the sparrows seem to take a liking for their feathers and collected what they could find for their own nests. They have also been busy trying to obtain the twine which ties the canes together in the kitchen garden for the peas and beans, thankfully without much success to date. And for those of you that are interested, the young blackbird that was mentioned last month, grew the rest of its wing and tail feathers and left after a about a week to fend for itself.  Mrs  Blackbird has been collecting nesting material again of late, so who knows; maybe we will see more young blackbirds before the summer is out.