Well, for the first day in May we have some hazy sunshine and it is not raining! It is still quite cold though.
May is the month to start sowing outside and hardening off seedlings to plant out when the soil becomes warm enough.
Is anyone else getting a sore neck from gazing at the sky, wondering when the sunshine will return?
I have a bit of a backlog in the greenhouse. Lots of plants successfully germinated in March are ready to go into cold frames (which have not been built yet!) but after what happened in April I fear for their future if I put them outside.
Brassicas outside but kept under a net just to be on the safe side!
I put the brassicas out during the day and put them back inside at night but not only is there still a risk of frost damage, the slugs have slithered out of hibernation (do slugs hibernate?) and are starting to nibble. It’s like living in a war zone!
Anyway, I have checked the books, encyclopedia, manuals, handbooks and magazines and here is a summary of what we should all be doing in the month of May.
Jobs to do:
- Harden off frost tender plants
- Once the last risk of frost has passed, plant crops outside
- Start watering newly planted fruit and any grown in pots
- Keep an eye on the pest situation – flea beetle, slugs, snails, pigeons, aphids and carrot flies…where does it end…
- Keep growing small quantities of salad
- Hoe and weed regularly
- Keep haunching up potatoes – we have still to sow the maincrops which should really have been done last week but I’m sure one week won’t make a huge difference.
- Put in supports for peas and beans. We use the prunings (or whips) from the apple trees – the ultimate in upcycling!
- Net fruit trees and bushes and check for diseases and pests
- Remove raspberry suckers and strawberry runners
- Support tall plants as they grow
- Finally, remember to sit down and enjoy your hard work!
I am going to grow tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines and okra in the greenhouse. I have brassicas, leeks, shallots and celeriac ready to plant out but will probably wait until the second half of the month. I have sown some peas outside as well as beetroot and parsnips but I also plan to sow beans, spinach, Florence fennel and swedes.
So it is shaping up to be a busy old month!
The greenhouse is full!
I knew it was cold last night as we had a thick white frost this morning and when I checked the temperature at 8am it was -4 degrees!
It never crossed my mind to look inside the greenhouses because, although it was cold, the frost would not get to the plants. However, I have just been out to check everything and I have lost quite a few plants. So far I have lost:
- All Morning Glory plants – I was worried about these anyway as the leaves were becoming discoloured. All 18 are dead.
- 68 Cosmos Plants
- 14 Marigolds
- 11 Sungold tomatoes
- 9 Red Cherry tomatoes
- 9 Moneymaker tomatoes
I am not so worried about the flowers as they all germinate quickly and will catch up. I am gutted about the tomatoes though. I planted them all on 19 February so they had a good head start. I have lost nearly 7 weeks but am going to have to start again.
The problem I have is that where I live in Central Scotland our summers can be mixed and are not famous for wall to wall sunshine. So if I have late tomatoes they will probably not get enough sunshine to ripen. This is why I always plant them so early so they get a head start and get the full benefit of any sunshine.
Now here is what I think I have done wrong. Last night I watered everything at 7pm. It was a clear night so the temperature (which was already low) would have plummeted very quickly. I think that even though the plants were protected from frost, the water must have frozen in the pots and modules and that is what has killed them. So from now on, or at least until there is no more risk of frost, I will water everything in the morning.
Not happy tomatoes
Last year I planted some dahlia tubers in a flower bed under the livingroom window. Seven out of the eight that I planted grew, but they were a bit late flowering (my fault for planting them late!) and then got obliterated by the strong autumn winds.
Once the leaves had turned black, after the first frosts, I cut them down leaving just a tiny bit of the stem above the soil. They were then covered in a really deep layer of topsoil to protect them from frost.
They looked so lovely I decided to buy some more and create a flower border just full of dahlias. They are all semi-cactus variety and the flowers are huge. The foliage varies from a green-black to lime green so even before the flowers open there is some variety of colour.
Dahlias or pineapples?
It is recommended that dahlia tubers are planted in the ground about 6 weeks before the last frost is expected. This is round about now where I live. I was having a look at the border when I noticed a pineapple shape sticking up out of the ground. As the week has gone on more and more have started to appear. Now if I was a betting woman I would put money on them being dahlias. However, they are not anywhere near where they were last year.
According to Mr Mac the tubers spread and what has popped up are new tubers. This explains why they are in a different place. It is unlikely last year’s tubers will flower which means I will need to wait to see where they are all going to pop up before I can plant the new ones.
It also means that they will have to be protected from the risk of frost so I will be tuned to the weather forecast each night and if it looks like it may be frosty I have some protective fleece to throw over them. It would be a shame to lose them now after they have survived the winter.
Another odd thing that has happened this week is the Morning Glory seedlings I potted on last week look like they have started to burn round the edges! They were growing really well but now most of them look as if they are going to die. I wondered if it was just too hot for them in the greenhouse so I have been taking them outside each morning and putting them back in at night. I have planted some more seeds just in case. I will need them for my blue wall.
Finally, you may remember a few blogs back I had lost my Muscari. Well I found it! It was at the front door.