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After a slump in energy and spirits, I've finally sown all the seeds which were left over from 27th April, as well as done a few other jobs. So, Giant Yellow Sunflowers are in the garden again, as well as Lupins and Sweet Williams. In the greenhouse, I have sown Leaf Beet and Spinach in the same container as the Giant Green Mustard. The plan is to harvest leaves as they arrive, so the fact they're crowded shouldn't matter.

I have 10 sown Autumn Mammoth Leeks and 12 Elefant Leeks, since, of the Autumn Mammoth Leeks I put outside to die in the winter, two are *still* alive. I sowed more Asparagus Peas to make up for the mixup earlier in the year - it's late for them, but they should cope.

My White Lisbon Spring Onions are doing very well indeed and want but a couple of weeks to harvest the first three. I planted out the spare Arcoat Turnips, as they're all fine big plants and I have nowhere in the greenhouse to plant them to. I suspect they'll be eaten, but they're spares anyway. If they actually survive, any turnips I get will be a bonus. Since the garden is so voraciously pest-ridden, and since I can't do much about it until I can rearrange the beds in November (and even then, slugs are *always* going to be numerous as we're very wet here), I've kept some turnips inside to mature.

*All* my Watercress plants got eaten to the ground, but a few are coming back. I'm inclined to try again, but this time in a trough container, and to plant them out when they're in danger of being potbound. My sugar snap peas are doing variably well. Some are vanished, and some are now a foot tall.

My special wet-climate Garlic is thriving, as is the Catnip I planted outside. There are probably other plants I've sown or planted and forgotten about - it's been a busy couple of hours.
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I've scrubbed one of the two waterbutts that takes the rain from the greenhouse and, from now on, feeds it back into the greenhouse. If the weather continues this wet, I will never have to make the trek to the garden tap again. The other one waits to be emptied of the various rotting yuk and scrubbed in turn. I also cleaned out the guttering on the garden side of the greenhouse. The wall side will be impossible to clean. I'll assume that plant roots will act as a filter for that water. Yes.

The Watercress I sowed last month is all now out by the pond side. The Watercress I planted out last week is thriving, the plants that stayed in the greenhouse less so. The left-indoor ones will soon catch up. I finally have a Nasturtium plant, under the Blackcurrant bush. Just one, out of about a hundred sown. There's no sign of any of the others in any other place. There are a whole bunch of identical seedlings under the Blackcurrant, suggesting I sowed something there, but I have no idea what.

I have baby Leaf Beets still, and plenty of Sugar Snap Peas and Mange Tout. One Asparagus Pea is still visibly alive. I am learning for next year, certainly. I have a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaby Victoria Rhubarb which won't reach its final place in the garden until November. I also have thriving Spring Onions in a window box, in need rows, graded from 'really getting tall' to 'baby wee seedling'. Poached Egg plants are sprouting in all the places I want Tomatoes to eventually be - this is deliberate. The Dill and Comfrey plants are well. Except for the ones who are dead, but there's no use crying over every mistake. Comfrey is apparently delicious to something in the garden. I have baby Lovage (just one!) and Cosmos ready to go out to the Carrot, Brassica and Allium bed. I have also plenty of baby Arcoat Turnips in a greenhouse and even a few alive outside. My Crystal Lemon Cucumbers look very well so far.

I'm starting to wonder if the unknown tree standing guard over the Rhubarb patch is actually some variety of Apple. It is covered in deep pink buds opening to pale pink blossom and the bees are delirious. I've planted out Tayberries, along the same wall as the Raspberries and Loganberries. They can all pollinate each other.

The weather is wet with occasional sunny intervals during which gardening can be done.
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The reason I so often garden in my pyjamas is that before or after breakfast, but before dressing, I'll put my wellies on and stump out to the greenhouse to check and water my plants, and then around the garden to see how everything is doing. I then will see something that needs doing, forget I am not dressed yet and suddenly I've spent hours planting out or whatever. Cotton pyjamas wash well, which is just as well really.

The weather has turned cooler and greyer, although rain isn't expected until Monday night. I'll be quite glad of it. Meanwhile, I've had the fun of expanding coir compost in 60 litre buckets, then the fun of draining it after I realised I put in too much water. I think my '60 litres when expanded' is closer to 50, to be honest. The process of stirring it involved getting into the tub and treading the compost like grapes. That was when I discovered a small hole in my super duper wellies. Does anyone know how to fix wellies? I don't want new ones, as these are the nicest wellies I've ever had since I was about three and had a bright red pair with daisies around the top.

I planted out dill and some sacrificial tomatoes which are surplus to requirements and got in my way. The tomatoes are Roma VF plum tomatoes. They're hardy little seedlings, but even so I think I've signed their death warrant, with no hardening off or anything. If they make it, I'll merely put the rest of the tomatoes somewhere else. They're in a pile on the soil, of living alehoof, followed by dead rhubarb leaves (well chewed by now), followed by blood, bone and fish, followed by coir compost which tomatoes supposedly like. I need to shove some lime in there (easy to do when it's a heap), and they won't get any nitrogen at all beyond the initial dose. What they will get is a companion group of comfrey plants I can cut down and let rot into their heap from time to time. If I *really* need to, I'll give them comfrey tea, but I'm reluctant to use liquid feed. The tomato heap is next to some planted-out dill which should live.

From the same tray as the dill and tomatoes, I've planted out five sweet marjoram seedlings of six sown modules and one lavender seedling, again of six sown modules (I overwatered them, poor things.) They're in a seed tray heaped up well with compost, and will be planted out as an entire unit. I'll sow new lavender in the same tray, for a lovely fragrant double row of herbs. I think the lavender will do a lot better in the bigger tray because it's a lot less drown-and-drought than the little modules. I love that I am learning what works, and what doesn't, and still ending up with plants. Plus, seeds are cheap.

I have a container ready for when the black cherry tomatoes come up. I have more pea seedlings, still, than I can face planting out in a day. Hopefully, I can put out more tomorrow, in their own little piles of compost. I'll put the compost out in the morning and put the peas in it in the evening, to make sure the compost has had a chance to drain further. Every edible pea I've planted out so far is alive and well. The sweet peas are more finicky and apparently tastier, but by letting some grow taller and then hiding them under bottles, I've managed to keep a dozen or so plants alive. I'll supplement them later in the year with outdoor-sown seed.

Dill has also been placed to one side of the brassica/allium bed, on the opposite side to where the carrots will go. Everything else on the bed supposedly really benefits carrots, and dill really benefits the everything else, so I'll just let the everything else play chaperone. I also planted out some spring onions, as my spring onion trough (with eighteen healthy plants in it) is full. I also planted out some spring onion ends that I soaked in water overnight. Apparently, you can get three spring onions from each one you buy if you only save the root end. Let's see if it works in practice. It also works for celery ends, apparently, except those you bury straight into the soil an inch deep.

My nasturtiums are just at the stage of splitting and putting out the first bit of root, as I found out when I turned one up. By this time next week, I should have little baby nasturtiums everywhere. The eventual plan is that every bit of ground not growing something else I want will be covered with nasturtium. All I have to do for the nasturtiums is put them in a crappy bit of soil and leave them well alone.

My catnip is doing very well and every plant now has new proper leaves. In COMPLETELY UNRELATED news, both cats have suddenly become very interested in joining me in the greenhouse and I keep having to chase them out. I'll pot them on and let them get good and big before I throw them out to the mercy of every neighbourhood cat. The plan is to place them strategically to keep the birds away from my tomatoes. They'll go on their own in a bit of 'waste' earth next to the greenhouse where it won't hurt anything to have cats rolling on it. I also have to look up what it was they were meant to be a companion for in the west-facing bed, and where they can go to do that and not cause cats to crush my other vegetables.
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Today I was outside before dawn. The radio had forecast a week ahead of scorching hot days, so I watered all the plants before the sun could hit them. Last thing at night would be better, but I am always so very tired by then. By the time I was done, there was a thin skin of ice on the bird bath, by that magical process that uses a black, shallow dish, morning sunlight and some weird trick of radiation. It allows people in hot countries to make ice in above-zero temperatures and I have no idea how it works. The outside was chill enough to see my breath, but the greenhouse was nice and cosy already. Thank goodness for the automatic vent. I foresee myself having to put blinds in as well later on.

I've planted out lots of strong young morning glory "Grandpa Otis" plants, which were sown less than two weeks ago. After only three days, they were strong seedlings with two leaves each, and now they're starting with their true leaves. They're poisonous as anything, so they're safe from slugs.

My sweet peas I wanted to cover the ivy have been eaten, so I planted out more. Learning from last night, I strewed the ground about them with dandelion leaves, but then I got nervous and gave each one a plastic bottle greenhouse as protection. They only get morning sunlight unless they get a lot taller, so they should be fine.

I had the idea of watering the holes into which I was planting my sugar snap peas before planting the peas themselves. I have no idea why I thought to do that, but doing so revealed that one of the holes had a major drainage problem and would have drowned my poor pea. I solved the problem by poking holes down through the clay pan with a knife-sharpening steel (one of my favourite gardening tools) until decent drainage was achieved. I put a comfrey plant in next to that pea, so it can drill down with its massive tap root and break through the pan of clay. It isn't quite ready to go out, really, so it got a little bottle greenhouse too.

My turnip seeds I think got baked to death in all the hot dry weather, so I planted out more under square clear plastic tubs. That particular bed (brassicas, carrots, alliums and helpful herbs and flowers) is a no-dig bed - a four-inch deep layer of rough compost on top of the existing layer of dead leaves. One dandelion has so far managed to work its way through even that layer, but its single long, blanched yellow leaf was simply plucked out and left for the slugs. Six leeks still survive, poor things. I actually plant leeks 'for real' next month with decent hopes that *those* ones will make it. I've learned more since the January sowing, and the future leeks will sit in plastic cups until a decent size, then go out. I'm not sure how many leeks I should sow for myself, anyone got an idea?

Not everything I plant out is dead or dying! The sugar snap peas I planted out a while ago are absolutely fine, thriving even. The raspberry, loganberry and redcurrants are fine. My calendula pot marigolds, by the blackcurrant bush, are starting to sprout. The potted nettles have already provided a meal. I have three living parsley plants and one coriander (I drowned the other one, which is very, very easy to do). I think some outdoor-sown asparagus peas are sprouting.

There are dandelion leaves everywhere now. I am starting to run out of dandelion plants. This is a new and refreshing situation.
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So, there's this hippyish organic idea that dandelions, instead of being a scourge, actually draw up minerals from deep down and bring them up to the surface as leaves. And that you can bring these minerals to the top of the soil by trimming the dandelions and dropping the leaves on the ground in your vegetable beds instead of wrecking the soil digging them up.

The idea then goes that the wilted dandelion leaves will be more attractive to slugs than your precious seedlings. Slugs won't touch fresh dandelion, but the hippy idea is that wilted leaves are madly attractive to slugs. Even dandelion leaves.

So, I went out with a torch tonight, and what do you know, it works. My tender plants had slugs making a beeline for them, but where there were wilted leaves on the ground, they'd all gathered there instead.

I still killed them with scissors, but that's really good to know. If wilted dandelion leaves will keep slugs away from my seedlings, then the dandelions can keep on growing, and welcome. Even if they're only being cut-and-come-again salad for slugs.

The thing about the minerals might even be true.


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May 2014

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