Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Just One Big April Shower

Monday 23rd April 2012
Tuesday 24th April 2012

This year the month of April sure has lived up to its reputation.
I can't believe I'm about to do this, but I'm actually going to moan about the rain, something us English people just love to do and a pleasure we've been deprived of for quite some time.
All I need is a couple of days dry and the soil will be perfect for breaking into a fine tilth ready to welcome a host of seeds and seedlings. I don't mind getting cold and wet, though I'd rather not, but at the moment the soil's just too lumpy and cloggy for sowing seeds into. At least my system of small veg beds will mean I can minimise treading on the soil and destroying it's structure.
Meanwhile, the queue builds up. I've filled the coldframe with baby plants hardy enough to survive there and with slightly bigger ones moved on from the greenhouse. I've filled the spaces with those that needed to be in the heat of the house to germinate and reach a few days old. And I've sown the next lot of seeds and filled up the staging in the dining room.
The whole system is now on the point of gridlock, with a giant bottleneck at the actually-going-into-the-veg-garden stage.

Not only that, but the slugs are on the rampage. Not compared to London, where the imbalance of the urban ecosystem gives them an unfair advantage, but for the first time I am seeing slugs in significant numbers. Only small ones and not enough to do much significant damage at the moment, but enough to cause a threat. The one crop they seem to have gone straight for is the young pak choi seedlings. Now, as tasty as pak choi is to us, it seems to be even more tasty to every manner of moving creature out there. I'm on the point of giving up on it, but I've got a couple more experiments up my sleeve before that. I'm going to trying sowing a lot more than I need, in the hope that a few get through and survive. This is the same tactic used by a frog when it lays enough spawn to give rise to about a thousand tadpoles. I'm also going to try the other extreme, growing a few plants in the pampered luxury of the polytunnel. We'll see what works best, or we'll learn to like something else green!

The crops that did make it into the soil outside are enjoying the rain though! The peas, in all their various sizes and shades, are sprouting up and reaching for the skies. The broad beans have awakened and pushed their bushy leaves through the crust. And the first potatoes have already nudged up through the trenches and breathed the fresh air above. Let's hope we have no more sharp frosts or I'll have to get out there and earth them up a little more. In fact, I'll do that anyway at some stage, but I'd prefer to wait till the soil's a bit drier (and lighter).

Anyway, most of the day was spent inside today, sowing seeds. Some are second sowings to continue the succession at harvest time. Others are those which grow fast but can't go out until all risk of frost has passed and the soil is a little warmer. So the squashes, pumpkins and courgettes, the cucumbers, sweet corn and more beans. All these have giant seeds which result in fast-growing giant seedlings with huge leaves. They're amazing to grow. Now that they are started off, I need to prepare their final growing sites as soon as I can, digging in lots of compost and manure and giving them plenty of space. I have plans for the 'Three Sisters' - more on this at the time, and for splashes of radiant sunflowers to mingle in and brighten up this patch.
I also planted up some perennial flower seeds and a stack of rudbeckia and cosmos seeds saved from last year. And finally, I've started off most of the herbs. These packets can yield hundreds of plants and are an ample reward for patience.

A New Polytunnel Is On Its Way
Being stuck in all day often costs me money, since the internet is too inviting. And so it was today, although this was a purchase which was long overdue and not unexpected. For today, I finally got round to ordering a polytunnel, all 14 foot by 40 foot of it. The price hiked up from the basic to almost double that, mainly because I have bought every conceivable extra to protect it from our fenland winds - storm protection brackets, crop bars, a triple ridge system, the premier model with closer hoops... also double doors front and back, ground cover and irrigation system (though I hope that most of the water will be diverted from the garage roof into a bath I shall sink into the ground inside the tunnel - this will provide a little stored heat in the cold winter nights too.)

It should be here in about a week, and I'm sure it won't be long till I've filled it up.

Birdy distractions
First thing this morning, two Fieldfares flew from the Ash trees in the garden. They will certainly be very late reaching their breeding grounds as they should have been gone when most of their cousins left. I've not seen any round for a few weeks now. I was treated to stunning views of a Barn Owl just outside the dining room window but the Short-eared Owls seem to have finally moved on now. Not seen any for a couple of days.

Then, early afternoon, I find out there were two White Storks in a field on the outskirts of Spalding yesterday, and this morning! They would have been a very welcome diversion. A few days ago, a remarkable flock of nine birds were photographed from a tractor somewhere in the South-West. Six of these were subsequently seen a couple of times somewhere in Wales. Could these Lincolnshire birds have come from the same flock? Whatever their origins, they were reported to have flown South from Spalding. All they had to do was to veer a little East and they might just come over the farm. So, between the frequent and very heavy showers, I kept popping out down the garden to give me a good all round perspective, but nothing. Not really a surprise. They weren't likely to gain much height in this weather, and visibility was not great so I would need a large slice of luck for them to fly close enough to see. Besides, I doubt that in this weather they went very far at all. Probably grubbing around in some nearby field.

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