Sunday, 18 April 2021

Gardening Diary April

I think the time has come to restart my monthly gardening diary. Looking back at last year's diary, I realise how keen we must have been to get going, starting to write in January, when apart from weeding and digging there was not really a lot to do.

I feel I may be a bit behind with the vegetable garden, as although I was in Cornwall for a long stretch of time after Christmas, we were slightly distracted by our big tree planting project. We have planted 3 acres of trees, with help and advice from the Woodland Trust. I feel our neighbours may think we are a bit mad, and it was a huge amount of work. Approximately 1700 trees and shrubs. However hard or many of us were working, it seemed impossible to plant more than 100 each day. My husband was the hero, and was out even on days with driving rain. I dug a fair share of the holes, and both our children helped a lot too.

To begin with we planted oak and beech trees in stands of 25


This is a long-term project, as perhaps we won't see it as a mature woodland until we are very old, but perhaps our grandchildren (yet to be made) might. It is encouraging to look down the tubes now and see a lot of the trees, which were small bare sticks, with leaves now.

New game is "name that tree"

View of the house (in need of some whitewash), with some of the tree planting area behind

Tree planting seems to be very much in the news, but my husband has been dreaming about managing his own patch of woodland for a long time. I think he thought to find some woodland to work in, and making his own was not the original plan. Some of the trees are filling in between two areas of existing woodland, so he does have some larger trees to look after. The Woodland Trust man was very keen for biodiversity that woodland areas be connected, so that wildlife can move from one area to another. 

The largest part of the trees came through the Woodland Trust, although a few and some through SWLEN, now called Habitats and Heritage. Also quite a few were grown by my husband himself, from nuts he picked up. For several years there has been a section of the fridge where the nuts have to go to simulate winter, before they are planted. He has planted these trees in a small separate area.

We did a little planting in the vegetable plot after Christmas, planting some blackcurrant bushes and a tayberry. I have also just put in 7 more asparagus crowns, in the hope that I will have more than a single asparagus on my plate. Five bought from a seed company, and 2 from Poundland, so we will have to see which do better. My daughter and I went back to London for schools reopening, but while we were there my husband has planted onions and shallots.  

The blackcurrant bushes, and trench for the asparagus behind

First shoots of an onion


We have decided to try and grow a bigger variety of plants this year. The crops that were successful last year, we often seemed to have too much. My other resolution is to try and dig in more manure, as that did seem the key to things doing well.

We are only going to plant just one sort of potato this year, but have had a set back, as my husband put the seed potatoes on a low shelf to chit. He then found they had all disappeared. He said he almost started to doubt himself, as there was not a scrap of potato left. But the dog was looking guilty, and tubby. So we have had to buy more and start again. We have now planted two rows of desiree.

In digging over the area where we had potatoes last year, I have dug up a quite large amount. I can only think that our decision to dig a few plants when we needed them was not very sensible. Perhaps with two of us doing this we were missing plants, this year we should just dig them up all in one go.

We didn't grow any strawberries last year, so yesterday planted 12 strawberry plants bought in the garden centre. My gardening book says that you should not let them fruit the first year, but I am a bit uncertain about this, as the label on the plants didn't mention this. Should I remove any flowers, or just talk to them severely? I'd welcome any advice on this.

This morning I have been out in the polytunnel planting seeds in trays. I have planted two types of tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, squash and sweet peppers. I have more seeds, but it was so cold out there that I have decided to hold off a bit before planting any more.

I have also planted broad beans straight outside, although was a bit disappointed with the small amount of seeds in the packet.

We have got rid of the grapevine in the polytunnel, as it was taking up so much space, and did not really produce any edible grapes. We still have another vine against a wall outside, but thought that we could make better use of the space inside. I have found another large trough, and we are thinking that we might plant salad leaves in the polytunnel where we can better keep off the snails and slugs.

The other thing I have done is removed all the dead branches from the red currant bushes. Some were fine last year, but some of the bushes did not really produce much. My first idea was to dig out the worst plants, but as they all have some green leaves, I thought a really severe pruning might help. I am also going to give the gooseberries a little prune, although perhaps should have done this earlier.

I will be back in London when term begins, so the rest of the planting and looking after the seedlings will all be down to my husband. I am hoping he will send some photos for the next month's update. This has been a really long post, but it is a catch up on six months, so from now on I will try and do my regular monthly garden update.

A general view of the vegetable garden, with fruit trees behind

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