Tuesday 12 May 2020

Ne’er cast a clout

Overnight frost won't hurt crops like kale (operatic variety)
When I checked the forecast it was indicating 2 degrees overnight so I thought I should play safe, especially as we had a constant cold wind yesterday. It turned out that my caution was advised: some of the vegetable plants were frosted over. Just as well that I had decided not to plant my outdoor tomatoes – in any case, they need more hardening off first. Potted tomatoes are easy to bring under cover at this stage (see yesterday’s post) – a porch or conservatory will offer protection. It is wise to have some horticultural fleece handy – it is lightweight and can be used to offer on-the-spot protection to any plant that is vulnerable 

More on protection
The limit of my wildlife photography
We love to see birds in our garden and actively encourage them with well-supplied bird feeders. On an average day we see lots of sparrows, magpies, starlings and pigeons, of course. We have a resident robin and two pairs of blackbirds that squabble over the territory. We get daily visits from blue tits, longtail tits and coal tits. A greenfinch calls in each morning - along with collared doves and the occasional lesser spotted woodpecker. A heron cautiously checks out the pond now and then. And a sparrow hawk also keeps a beady eye on things. All this in a thoroughly urban setting. Birds help maintain a balance in the garden devouring all sorts of troublesome pests. However, there is a downside …

Protection for lettuces using micro-mesh
Some of these friends love nothing better than young lettuce. The greatest delicacy is a beetroot seedling. A whole row can be demolished in minutes. They love pea plants, too. So, I have resorted to serious protection. Using a lightweight tubular steel framework as a support I cover the whole raised bed with micro-mesh netting. Without a support, horticultural fleece works quite well but it tends to blow around. Of the different methods employed I find that the micro-mesh is best. An added advantage is that it offers a degree of frost protection

Know your garden
I went straight for the rhubarb patch this morning as I know that this the cold corner of our plot. Rhubarb can take a bit of frost, so I was not worried. It was on my mind having written about it yesterday. In fact, I woke in the early hours meditating on its joys – we had had it as a cold dessert with banana yesterday evening

Rhubarb with a light frosting

However, once awake, the task was to get back to sleep again so I did some mental arithmetic. Question: How many food-miles in rhubarb? The answer is 0.0279 – that is, the return journey to our rhubarb patch. If you also go for the banana, you’ll need to add on a bit. No, I have not yet grown a banana and, yes, I did get back to sleep

Compost again
Perhaps that should be composting, again. My compost processing plant (!) is right next to the rhubarb patch so in the cold corner (deliberately). One of the jobs that Garden Codger did on Saturday was to turn the heap and add more material. This brought the temperature down to about 20 degrees. Within 24 hours it was running at 71 degrees! 

This photo shows the reading at 6:30 this morning when the ambient temperature was about 2 degrees. In order to answer the many questions I get about this topic I am preparing a page of information that will be available soon – complete with helpful photographs. Good compost makes good soil, good soil produces good plants. You may have noticed - I am keen about compost! Our garden literally thrives on it. See this morning's shot below

Those tomatoes
I must get cracking and on the job so there are enough bush tomatoes to meet demand (again, see yesterday’s post). In their pots it is easy to give them protection, if any is needed. And, of course, we will be heading back into warmer weather very soon. So, work to be done

Goodbye for now – from the old Garden Codger

PS – for readers outside the UK I should explain Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May be out is an old English saying. As well as being a verb meaning to hit, clout is an old, disused word meaning clothing. Thus the saying means "wear your winter woollies until the end of May"

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