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Tokely's Tales - Andrew Tokely's gardening blog

Tokely's Tales - Andrew Tokely's Monthly Gardening Blog

May 2012

Well, after the wettest April on record, May arrived and hasn’t been a lot better. But at least the rain has turned more showery with a few nice sunny days over the last week. One good thing about this time of year is the soil surface dries out quicker, especially if the sun is accompanied by a nice breeze, so planting and sowing tasks can still be undertaken.

Andrew's son pulling radishes

The potatoes are growing well on the plot and have already been ridged up with soil to protect them from a few night frosts we have had of late. The few pots of Maris Bard I planted earlier in the year under glass have been moved outside and have tops standing 60cm (2ft) tall and I am hopeful will provide an early harvest next month. Parsnip and beetroot seedlings have emerged and I have already started to harvest a few radishes (a job my son likes to help with). Broad beans and transplanted peas are lush after all the rain and the rhubarb Fulton’s Strawberry Surprise is flourishing and is making a few tasty crumbles.

But not everything is as going so well, the peas sown direct in the soil rotted away in the deluges of rain, so these have been re-sown with the early maturing variety Twinkle and a few purple mangetout Shiraz. As it was so wet I have only just managed to sow some carrots, but at least as the days are getting warmer they should germinate quicker and hopefully catch up. These were sown in shallow trenches filled with some multipurpose compost which should aid germination in my wet clay soil.

The brassicas I planted are starting to move under their net protection and I think I will be cutting my first lettuce before the end of this month, which reminds me two weeks has past since sowing my last batch, so I better make another sowing to continue the harvest. The Bunton's Showstopper onions sown at Christmas and my exhibition leeks were planted out last weekend with some wind protection netting around the area to protect them from the elements.

Runner beans germinating in cell trays

As May is here I have sown a row of dwarf French beans direct into the plot, as by the time these germinate hopefully the cold nights will have disappeared. My first batch of runner beans has been sown in cell trays under glass. They’re just starting to germinate and will all be moved to the cold frame to harden off before being planted out towards the end of the month.

I have never seen so much growth as there is this year on the perennials in my borders - everything is taller and greener than ever. The taller perennials like delphiniums and lupins will soon require a few plant supports to ensure they stay upright. The hostas have burst into leaf adding colour to a winter bare border, meaning a little slug and snail protection needs applying to help keep the leaves in one piece.

Hostas in the border

Sadly the majority of the spring bulbs have finished flowering and the winter pansies and polyanthus are giving the last few days of colour before they are removed and the ground prepared for summer bedding. Despite the rain and a few cold nights I have just spotted a few aphids on my lupins and roses, which will need spraying to keep them under control as soon as the foliage is dry one evening.

Sweet peas are over 30cm (12in) tall, both in the large patio containers and the ground where I have them growing. As they grow I am making sure they can attach themselves to the wire supports in the containers and I am tying the ones in the ground to the canes and taking off the tendrils to try and get a few longer stems with bigger bolder flowers for cutting.

My greenhouses and cold frames are bursting at the seams with bedding plants. Some of the earlier sown perennials and hardier of the bedding plants like gazania, antirrhinum and dianthus have all been moved outside and will be planted as soon as the soil is ready and time allows. Other more tender bedding plants will be planted out as soon as June arrives and once all risk of frost has past.

As space becomes available in the greenhouses this is being filled up with planted baskets of the begonias ‘Apricot Shades’ and ‘Fragrant Falls’. Begonia corms are now growing into stocky plants in their 13cm (5in) pots. Tomato plants are on the benches making strong plants ready and waiting to be potted into growbags once the glasshouse is empty, which won’t be for a while yet.

At least the evenings are getting lighter to allow more time for watering (which takes longer as I can’t use my hosepipe since the ban) and potting on. Better go now as the rain has stopped and the lawn needs cutting before I treat the few lawn weeds that have miraculously appeared with some spot weed killer.

Happy Gardening!

Andrew Tokely, Head of Horticulture, Thompson & Morgan