Please note that Garden Club activities have had to be suspended until further notice.
The weather has gone from unusual to downright weird; April has been the driest for decades, and one week after the hottest April day on record we had sharp frosts killing off all the tender vegetables that unwary gardeners had planted out having been misled by the warm sunshine. Northamptonshire has a particularly difficult climate for gardening, being so far from the sea it heats up and cools down very quickly producing frequent late spring frosts which can be quite severe, even in the beginning of June. I had to cover my strawberries with glass overnight as they were in full flower, but the glass had to be removed promptly the next morning or the bright sunshine would have boiled the plants alive.
Speaking of weather, I have got the impression that in recent years the amount of wind we get has increased considerably. Wind is (or was) something expected in the autumn winter and early spring, but otherwise only during storms. We now seem to have strong winds blowing frequently during warm weather making the soil even drier. It makes sense therefore for gardens to have some sort of windbreak; hedges and shrubs being better than solid fences and walls because they slow the wind down where solid features cause turbulent air in their lee.
The weather has had a peculiar effect on our rhubarb, normally the easiest of vegetables/fruit to grow. In February and March it was producing the best crop I can remember, but since the cold wind we had in early April the pickings have been meagre to say the least. I have only managed enough for two jars of jam and a few desserts.
Don’t do this at home…
I recently read about the benefits of biochar, which is finely divided charcoal, as a soil conditioner. Apparently this can provide a source of fertility particularly for light soils. Not wanting to pay out large sums of money for the commercial product I decided to make my own from lumpwood barbecue charcoal. This turned out to be a bad idea; charcoal lumps are surprisingly difficult to break down and produce large quantities of fine dust which gets everywhere so a dust mask is essential. After a couple of hours of hard labour I looked like a coal miner after a shift down the pit. After all that I hope that this stuff lives up to its billing!
Whilst preparing an area on the allotment for planting recently I came across a large fleshy root which was producing some healthy green shoots. This wasn’t immediately familiar until I recalled that this was last year’s bean row. Obviously I had left a root in the ground and it had survived the winter. Runner beans are in fact perennial plants and it would be possible to treat them like dahlias and keep the roots over winter to plant out in the spring. But since they are so easy to grow from seed it’s hardly worth the effort.
Things to do in June
1. Prune early flowering shrubs
2. Plant out tender bedding plants and vegetables
3. Stake tall plants against wind.
For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page