Ne’er Cast a Clout

Working in the sun!

There’s little more motivating for gardeners than a warm, breezy spring afternoon with the promise of the weekend on the horizon and so our plots were rather busy this Friday afternoon.  There was a general feeling of industrious enjoyment but also a bit of worry – will this weather last?  Is it warm enough yet? It’s a bit of a gamble – the weather has been so unsettled in the last few years that it’s anyone’s guess as to what the next month will throw at us. However, the plants are starting to get too big to be indoors any more and so into the coldframes and ground they must go – with protection, of course! Taking the old saying ‘ne’er cast a clout til’ May be out’ to include plants, too, many people are keeping their new transplants and direct-sown seed warm with fleece covers.

Of course, there’s a risk with fleece, too – it can keep humidity in and so it’ll need to come off, e.g. the broad beans (Vicia faba ‘Aquadulce’) as soon as they’ve settled in to ensure they don’t end up suffering chocolate spot and off of growing seedlings so they don’t get twisted underneath it or have their tips damaged – something which happened over the winter with another student’s broad beans!


This is my plot with all of the newly planted seeds and the seedlings covered – as you can see my plot gets a good bit of shade by late afternoon – this picture was taken around 4 in the afternoon.

Broad beans (Vicia faba 'Aquadulce') planted! Broad beans (Vicia faba 'Aquadulce') under cover

 Above: my broad beans nestled gently into their new home and covered with fleece to discourage ‘predators’ from munching on the succulent young plants and to reduce the wind a little until their roots have a chance to start taking up water.  These were started at the end of January in 1l long toms and have come on well – though the bottle-cloched ones were planted at the beginning of March and are starting to break the surface already.  The aim is to have a succession of beans (same for all of the vegetables) but if we continue to have good weather the second row may manage to catch up to the first.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of my direct-sown peas (Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’) which were also sown in early May but they’ve also started peeking out of the ground. They’ve had a good germination rate – better than those indoors – and are looking fairly sturdy.  The indoor plants are unfortunately getting a little leggy but have had their tips pinched and  placed in the coldframes to encourage branching out rather than upward growth.  This ‘Bijou’ variety does grow quite large, however.

From top left, clockwise: 'Golden Sweet', 'Bijou', 'Champion of England' Flower 'Bijou'

From left, clockwise: ‘Golden Sweet’ (mangetout), ‘Bijou’ (mangetout),
‘Champion of England’ (maincrop) plus a flower of ‘Bijou’ from my garden last year.

The poppies (Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’) and lettuce (Latuca sativa ‘Reine des Glaces’) which I sowed only last week are also already sprouting, too – I have a feeling that I’m going to have to do a lot of thinning with them given the good germination rates.

I pricked out some more of my pinks (Dianthus chinensis-hedwigii ‘Black and White Minstrels’) – I now have all that I need and a few spare besides as a backup.  My nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus ‘Princess of India’) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’) have spouted and should be big enough to prick out within the next week or two – I’m looking forward to getting both of them out as they’re fairly tough and grow quickly once in the ground – fast impact.

Also sown on Friday: bishop’s weed (Ammi majus ‘Graceland’), candytuft (Iberis crenata), and onions (Allium cepa ‘Sturon’).  The first two were sown in shallow drills, watered in and covered with fleece.  The onions were sown in two rows, over which I made a cloche frame with Cornus and fleece to stop the birds pulling them out of the ground –  something they seem to really enjoy doing.

Once I was done with my plot I wandered around having a peek at what everyone else was up to (click images or hover over them for brief descriptions):

 Herb and flower circle. Anna's plot. Wooden house models.  B's plot. Very neatly kept fleece - I wish I could get mine to stay like this! Craig's plot.

Cornus stems twined to use as pea supports.  Michael's plot. Very neat 5l bottles used as cloches. Sophie's Plot. Marking out an area for cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and broadcast sown annuals.  Julie's plot.

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