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Whatever happened to May?

The past two months have been so busy I simply haven't had time to write a blog post. So this one covers two months!

May and June are always the busiest time in my garden. The weeds regularly launch an attempt at Garden Domination, while everything else seems to need attention too: pruning, re-potting, moving, feeding, dead-heading, watering, repairing ... Add to that my garden club's auction or sale in May, for which I attempt to grow lots of new plants, and I don't have much time for anything else.

Garden Club Sale

Like others in the UK I've found my garden had a late start this year. The wet weather and very cold winds in early Spring meant that most things were 3-4 weeks behind and are only just catching up now. This was a major problem for the garden club sale - held in place of our usual auction due to Covid restrictions which meant we had to have an outdoor event - as it meant that many of my new plants had barely moved passed the seedling stage, making them less interesting for buyers, and other donators had the same problem.

We did pretty well nonetheless raising a healthy sum for the club, but we did have a fair number of plants left over. We split these between those who had helped at the sale, with myself and the Chair taking the last remnants home the following week. Unfortunately a lot of the remaining plants were tomatoes, and sitting in close quarters for 7 days had resulted in an outbreak of early blight, but with a combination of removing infected leaves and quarantining I managed to salvage a few of those.

Several of the other leftovers were either unlabelled or poorly labelled. I ended up with 4 plants simply labelled as "gourds", although I subsequently learned that they're a decorative variety so I've planted those next to my pergola in the hope that they'll climb up it and give me a nice display. Most of the unlabelled plants remain a mystery; I grew them on in their pots for about 5 weeks but they stalled, and my plant identification app couldn't help. I've now planted them out and hope that flowers of some sort will appear.

The Kitchen Garden

My vegetables have made a very promising start. So far I've harvested lettuce, sugar snap peas, turnips and cabbage with more of all of those plus salsify, swede, chard, potatoes and of course tomatoes all growing well. The salsify was a real surprise, I found some very out of date seeds and planted them in a bare spot on a whim but they've all germinated. I've never tried them before and I understand they can be a bit tricky to prepare but I'll give them a try. My turnips and radishes have provided a bonus crop in the form of their "greens" ie the leaves and stems which top them, which are delicious stir-fried with a little garlic. The tomatoes have been multiplying too: I tried potting some of the side-shoots removed from my cordon tomatoes, and sure enough they quickly rooted and are now growing in their own right.

Above left to right and top to bottom: my shady raised bed, in which I'm growing peas and runner beans; my main raised beds and fruit cage; a side-shoot removed from one of my tomato plants has rooted well and been moved to a large pot; my first harvest; tomatoes; stir-fried turnip and radish "greens"

My fruit plants aren't doing well this year. I have a few gooseberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, aronia berries and cherries but in most cases far fewer than last year. My pear tree only has 3 pears left after the regular "June drop" (nature's way of thinning out the fruit), but it's a young tree so I wasn't expecting much. My almond tree, on the other hand, has managed to hold on to a lot of its fruit so I'm hoping for a decent nut harvest in the autumn.

The Flower Garden

After a very slow start, most of my flowers started to bloom in June.

Above left to right and top to bottom: crab apple blossom, pieris japonica 'Blossom', Lychnis flos-cuculi 'Petite Jenny'', passiflora ' Amethyst', English marigold (calendula), lavatera, roses (unknown variety), poppy 'Hungarian blue', Lonicera × brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet', Lonicera × heckrottii 'Gold Flame', Hibiscus syriacus speciosus, leptospermum scoparium kiwi, astrantia 'April Love', allium Christophii, St John's Wort / Hypericium (unknown variety), salvia 'Amethyst Lips', Solanum crispum'Glasnevin', salvia (unknown variety), rosa 'Margaret Merril'

A Few Surprises

Many years ago my mother in law bought a cheap, grafted rose bush from Woolworths. It proved to be exceptionally productive with a constant mass of flowers from summer through to autumn in two different colours. Originally in a pot, when she moved house to be closer to us she brought it with her. When she passed away last year it held so many memories that I couldn't bear to leave its survival to the whim of new owners so I dug it up and transported it to my own garden. It has continued to thrive, but this year for the first time it bore both its colours on a single flower.

One of my maintenance tasks during the month has been fishing blanket weed out of our pond. Unfortunately on one occasion I dislodged some of the large stones from around its edge. It's a small pond so I decided to simply jump in and remove them - only to find it's not THAT small! I need to get waders for next time I try this.

They're a "weed" to most people, but I keep a separate bed for ground elder. At this time of year it's really a very pretty plant, and the young leaves can be eaten like spinach.

That's it for antoher month, hopefully I'll manage an update in July!


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