The air is alive with the sounds and smells of late spring- early summer. Birds chatter, insects buzz. Bright days follow rain showers that leave everything looking lush and intensify the intoxicating scent of Syringa, apple blossom and Spiraea, to name but a few. Days are longer with nights that never quite get dark and a dawn chorus that starts from about 2am!
It’s hard to keep up with what’s happening in the garden.
So far it’s a good year for the strawberries in the trough. Compared to this time last year the strawberries seem much healthier and are producing lots of flowers that promise lots of juicy fruits later this summer. As soon as they begin to send out runners I’ll cut them back so the plants can focus on fruit production.
Apparently strawberries can be good companion plants to bush beans, lettuce, onion, spinach and thyme. So since I’ve got a few odd lettuce seedlings left to transplant, I’ve filled a couple of gaps in the container to see how they get on.
One of the earliest plants to flower is the Lamprocapnos spectabilis. Now in its second year with me, it is looking much happier than it did last year and it has produced some lovely delicate pink flowers. It’s in a pot on its own so I can keep it especially moist in dryer spells. It sits alongside the Geranium whose own pink flower buds are waiting in the wings.
Two other plants that definitely look better second year in are the Comfrey and Aquilegia. The Comfrey has just started to open its purple bell-like flowers. The Aquilegia next to it that I bought as a unidentifiable small clump at an end of season sale suffered from powdery mildew last year but this year has emerged from winter much more invigorated. Buds have formed so I can’t wait to see what the flowers are like. The long winters here do seem to be helpful when rejuvenating plants that may ordinarily be plagued with diseases over a longer period.
The salads I’ve been growing have been enjoying the temperatures (12-19 degrees C) and rain we’ve been having lately. The Red Giant leaf, true to its name with its incredible foliage, looks fantastic. Its leaves also prove to be tasty, with a wonderful spicy mustard flavour. These are the very same ones that emerged as tiny plants from the winter so I’m very happy with how things have turned out. I expect it won’t be long now before they go to seed as temperatures rise, so I’m making the most of them while I can.
Lettuce and watercress that I sowed in mid April are coming along well. It’s time to feed the watercress some liquid feed, so I use some of the home-made nettle feed that I made last year that has been maturing in a sealed bucket ever since.
Some of the kale and cabbage are now ready to plant out at the school garden this week. The chard, in contrast, has suffered a bit from damping off this year. So this week I’ll go through the seedlings and rescue the strongest ones to pot on and probably end up sowing some chard seeds directly into the raised beds as well. The Helianthus seedlings (shown here in front of a pot with carrot and radish seeds I’ve just sown) have just been potted on and will be transplanted into the school garden in a week or two.
The Lathyrus odoratus and Cosmos bipinnatus seedlings are really overdue for planting out. Both need supports: for the Sweet peas something to climb on and for the Cosmos to keep the stems upright, essential if I want to use it as a cutting flower.
At the beginning of May I sowed another batch of broad beans and peas in root trainers outside (keeping the lid on to maintain high humidity until they germinated, and thereafter initially just at night times). They’ll be ready to transplant into my tubs once they’re a bit more bushy, which shouldn’t be too long if they keep growing at this rate.
The squash could do with being re-potted or transplanted but are being stretched out as they are in the cold frame for a little while longer. Last year the squash weren’t a success at the school garden which may have been, in part, because they were planted out too young and subsequently weren’t able to deal with the weather that turned windy and rainy. Though I’m not sure whether larger plants would have particularly relished that forecast either to be honest.
The fennel is outgrowing its pot and should be planted out this week which, along with the mysterious fruit bush, needs a deep container- still looking! In the meantime, the fruit bush is flowering.
I’m still none the wiser as to the species but I guess time will tell.