As I left home to meet up with gardeners this week, the sky was heavy with its frosty load and the huge flakes softly floated around me as I tentatively set off once again down the slippery hilly lanes.
There was snow in the community garden with most of the beds frozen, but inside we were starting to see slow signs of life.
The potatoes are chitting nicely…
We transplanted strawberry runners into guttering that will be hung on the wall outside when the weather warms up a bit.
Very few seeds have germinated that were sown two weeks ago, it’s been so cold. The rocket is just up, a few tiny lettuce plants and some kale. We’ll be sowing fresh seeds over the next few weeks to counteract the losses/non germination…
Lastly we were able to thin out and divide the chives that we planted from seed a couple of years ago that were in danger of taking over the herb bed.
There is one delightfully uplifting area of the garden during this barren time… a large container full of pretty spring flowers. Fingers crossed for a warmer Wednesday next week!
If you’re undecided about whether to buy a polytunnel then I can’t recommend it (or a greenhouse) enough, and especially for any fair weather gardeners….. it was 20ºC in ours at lunchtime today!
It basically means you can start sowing seeds a bit earlier. Some may still need the protection of horticultural fleece or newspaper for the more tender varieties but it will give you a head start. If you plan well (and want to) it will enable you to grow a variety of veggies all year-long.
I had a couple of hours to spare today so having covered the soil in well-rotted manure a few months ago, after a rake over and water we were finally able to sow some seeds into our tunnel. These included mangetout, dwarf french beans, lettuce and basil (under fleece at night), beetroot, perpetual spinach and scallions. We also moved a few strawberry plants growing outside into the corner of the tunnel in hope of an earlier crop.
All being well, in a month or two we’ll be planting courgettes, squash, cherry tomatoes and peppers and after we’ve harvested the beans and peas, some winter cabbage.
It feels great to get started again and am now chomping at the bit to get the rest of the beds ready outside.
Four to Six inches fell this morninga word of warning for anybody lucky enough to have a polytunnel….. be sure to brush snow off it or it’s in danger of collapse.
Although it may seem like a good idea to leave the snow on to act as an insulating layer (it was 8oC inside mine today and
-3ºC outside), it isn’t!
A twitter friend @northcountryken who owns an organic farm in Newcastle, England posted pictures of one of his collapsed tunnels yesterday where they’ve been having very severe snowfall – several feet in places. It was a sight none of us would like to see in our own gardens, but even worse if it’s your livelihood.
You can see from my pics that it doesn’t need a massive layer to put pressure on the plastic, so if you’re able to get to your tunnel, try and remove as much snow as you can with a soft brush.
When the snow has cleared, check the plastic. If you notice any tears or holes repair it promptly with special repair tape that you should be able to pick up from your local garden supplier or polytunnel supplier. As polythene ages it can become brittle so repairing tears promptly will prevent them from getting bigger, therefore prolonging the life of your tunnel.
Ian says I’m a pessimist – I say I’m a realist. I guess we’re both right but I’m not taking any chances this week. The weather men are forecasting snow tomorrow and having been caught out in the new year (i.e. snowed in for 5 days) this week we’re getting prepared.
It was a beautiful spring day yesterday so hard to believe the warnings. However, we took the opportunity to tidy up the vegetable garden, do a bit more weeding and make it more weather proof.
First off we covered the potato bed with a double layer of horticultural fleece. Potatoes are not frost hardy and although their haulms (stems) are not poking through the soil yet, being frozen into the soil wont do them much good either.
Then we covered the onion bed with a cloche. Although garlic and shallots are pretty hardy, young onions are not so we’re taking no chances. Sudden changes in temperature now can either destroy the young seedlings or cause them to bolt (flower at the expense of a large bulb). We had some spare pipe and clear plastic laying around from the house renovation so are making use of it. I also noticed last week that the birds have lifted a few bulbs so covering them for a while will prevent this.
Finally we’ve surrounded the plot with a light gauge wind fabric to give it more protection. Unfortunately next door’s horses took a huge liking to the native hedge we’d planted and it’s now very sparse at the north end. Initially Ian didn’t like the idea of the ‘artificial’ fabric. However, it’s made the garden feel much cosier and strangely more manageable and we’re now delighted we took the time to do it.
The optimistic side of me is now hoping the experts have got it all wrong.
I know that a layer of snow is supposed to act as a good insulating blanket but this is ridiculous! We did manage to dig up a few parsnips and leeks a couple of days ago (which tasted delicious) but it may be a while before we try the savoy cabbages! Feeling sorry for the purple sprouting broccoli this year…first the caterpillars and now this!
This photo was taken this morning when the rest of the country seems to be talking about a big thaw…. ordinarily there would be three vegetable beds in this picture still containing PSB, spinach, chard and parsnips.
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