tomatoes forming on young plant

The purple broccoli (I think Rudolph and Claret) continued to produce a good crop until the end of May by which time the calabrese (Aquiles) which I had moved out from the poly tunnel came into its own. I spoke too soon last time. It has produced and abundant crop and should last until the next batch (Matsuri) are ready to harvest.

The onions which survived the battering with snow and wind over winter are swelling nicely and should be ready to harvest in a few weeks and this year my selection of garlic has avoided the rust which stunted it and lead to early harvesting last year. The spring planted onions which I used to fill in the gaps don't seem to be far behind. The growth during the last three warm weeks has been spectacular.

By mid April I was beginning to despair that the warmer weather was receding further into the future. The house was full of tomato and chilli plants which I had intended to transfer to the greenhouse and poly tunnel in early April, but the continued cold weather and nightly frosts put me off. Last year the tomato plants suffered from cold during much shorter cold spells in my unheated greenhouse. I didn't want to make the same mistake again so every day for three weeks we were carrying them in and out each day. Eventually they were far too big to fit onto the emergency shelves in my front room so we had to borrow a heater for the greenhouse.

Finally by the end of the first week in May "normal" weather returned. 

It may not sound much but I'm very pleased with a crop of iceberg lettuces. Usually the slugs get them but this year I have produced a fine crop from a free packet of seeds my Mum got from a magazine and gave to me. I sowed them in the greenhouse in January and then planted them out under a cold frame in early May just after treating the bed with nematodes. 

Iceberg lettuce and Pak Choi

At the same time as the iceberg lettuce I also sowed some pak choi yuushou and transplanted some of them to the cold frame at the same time as the lettuce. They have grown into nice heads and are also surviving the slugs. I left a few in the greenhouse and planted them out a couple of weeks later. They have grown tall and thrown up flower stems. We are harvesting them and eating the leaves in stir fry and salads, but as a novice gardener I was surprised by how different they were simply because of the temperature.

This year we are experimenting with a small hydroponic system which we finally got set up in the third week of April. Most of the chilli plants we had intended to transfer to the hydroponics were by now too big. We had been waiting for the weather to warm up but in the end invested in a water heater just to allow us to get started. It wasn't what we had planned but we had to use the smallest and weakest plants as they were the only ones which would still fit. For the first few weeks they did nothing although the heated water created a localised micro climate and was just enough to stave off the frost. When the weather turned warm we could almost see them green up and grow. One is now as big, if not bigger, than the other conventional grown plants which had got off to a head start and we have had to add a support frame.

chilli plantssmall chilli plants in hydroponics systemplants showing growth in hydroponics system

I transplanted the first batch of overwintered broad beans and peas into 17 litre pots and the second batch into the garden beds. I'm now harvesting from the first lot but it is hard to manage them. The pots are too small and the bean plants top heavy, even with the stakes and in the recent strong winds several of the bean stalks have broken. It is also difficult to get the watering right, especially for the peas. I used the pots to save space in the beds but I don't think I'll do it again next year.

Pea plants in flower

So far my biggest disaster of the year is scorching the gooseberry bushes when I sprayed them to rid them of a serious aphid infection. They had been looking luscious and loaded with small fruits before the aphids struck. The soap and oil spray wiped out the aphids but two days later the leaves started to turn brown and shrivel. Now the birds are going in for the still immature fruits. 

gooseberry bush

But on the other hand some of my interventions have worked well. A soil testing kit has helped to identify nutrient deficiencies responsible for the cucumbers plants failing to thrive and I'm getting better recognising problems manifesting in leaves and successfully halted the yellowing of  the aubergine plants leaves which I realised was due to magnesium shortage rather than watering.

Aubergine plant with yellowing leaf