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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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It was beautifully warm and sunny again today. This spring has been remarkably clement. I mowed the lawn, which is quite the undertaking, especially as the lawnmower has to have its electrics taken apart and put back together again every time.

I've had another harvest - the same foods again, but more of them. Rhubarb, chives, nettles and rocket salad, in case anyone is wondering. Fifteen rocket plants yield enough leaves for a one-person bowl of salad a week. One rhubarb plant will yield five stems in a week (there are a good number of stems ready to replace what I've just cut very soon). The nettles are perennial so counting the number of plants is problematic, and the chives are in clumps.

The massively-yielding apple tree over the east (west-facing) wall looks very dead. I'd expect some sign of life by now. That means *all* the trees along that wall are very, very dead, and died last year some time, although the other plants are alive and well. Anyone got any idea what could have happened?

Bumble bees are busy looking for nest sites and the honey bees are out. There are butterflies around too. The food I am putting out for the birds is apparently especially attractive to reed buntings, as I had at least four and I think a half-dozen in my garden today. The robin was active where I had been planting out parsley. I'd like to have put out more pea plants but was unable to stand the crouching needed to do so, and was also too clumsy to really handle seedlings today. Perhaps tomorrow. Anyway, the lawn was a great big job and I am glad it's over.

On another note, I had an idea that it would be nice to *just* cook hickory smoked sausages, slice them up and put them in a muffin tin with corn muffin mix on top. It's going to be a regular treat, I think, served with baked beans.
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Had another burst of energy, oddly enough following the onset of migraine. So, in my greenhouse, I've sown Crystal Lemon Cucumber, Lovage, Cosmos, Celery, Sage, Sunflower 'Black Magic', Tomato 'Black Cherry', Wild Strawberry, Buddleia and more Comfrey. I'd have sown more Dill too but it meant going back to the house and it's pouring it down now.

Outside, I've sown English Lavender and dumped Basil and Thyme rather than repotting them. There's another Thyme and some baby Basil in a long box on the kitchen windowsill, so it doesn't matter that the planted out stuff will probably die. Also there are the Morning Glory I sowed about three days ago which is already a nice healthy set of young plants with two leaves each. They make the Sugar-Snap Peas look hesitant.

In the conservatory, I have some Chilli 'Twilight' - look them up, they're gorgeous.

I'm now pretty much out of room for more plants until I start planting things out. I can do half a dozen Dill in the space next to the Sunflowers, that's really all. Tomorrow, I'll check the planting plan and see if I've missed anything. I know I am not doing more peas for a while yet as this lot will keep me going for about a month solid. The next planting is in three weeks time in April.
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It did rain during the night, so I haven't suddenly moved to the continent. Spice, the autumnal-coloured rescue cat, has hurt her leg, having been bitten by probably another cat. She's on antibiotics. It remains to be seen how easy it is to put pills down her throat. Hatter's a champion - if you can get them onto the back of his tongue, you're done. Just as well, really.

I'm eating a really, really nice burger from the local coffee shop, after some gardening. I've put wood ash on the brassica bed, to ward off club root, and nematodes *everywhere* to kill slugs (they can come back in the summer, but right now I have too many tender delicious things sprouting). I've also sown some leaf beet, also known as perpetual spinach. I'll sow lots of other things later, when I have more energy and less hunger. The 120 litres of compost I had the day before yesterday is already down to about 40 litres. Most seeds get dumped on top of a few handfuls of compost to make an improvised miniature 'bed' on top of the real bed.

If you cut dandelions off at soil level and spread the leaves out to die on the soil, slugs will apparently go for the wilting leaves first in preference to your living plants. They also dump a lot of nutrients into your soil from right down where the tap root goes to, making them available to shallow-rooted plants. Suddenly, these pernicious and ever-spreading weeds have become green mulches and quite valuable. I'm glad, as they're a massive pain to try to get rid of. Now I can just cut them off with scissors and make sure they don't overgrow the cultivated stuff. (You can eat the leaves too, but personally I think they taste foul).

It remains to be seen whether, after all the companion planting and green mulches and 'working with nature', I actually end up with any vegetables outside at all.
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Today was a big planting day - I have one of these every three weeks until October. I only got about a third of what I wanted planted done. I took advantage of warmish, still, not-raining weather to get the outdoor ones done.

I planted out all the fancy nasturtiums - Black Velvet and Empress of India - out among the blackcurrant bushes (to draw down aphids) and where my lemon cucumber is going to be between ranks of peas and rubes canes. I have Tom Thumb to scatter around the allium patch another day.

I sowed turnips in the allium bed, and only remembered after doing it that all my brassicas should start indoors for a good while to avoid club root - in the winter I'll have had chance to properly lime the soil. So, I have to hope they turn out fine, or not grow brassicas there again for fifteen years. I'm wondering if I should scoop the seeds out and put them in a pot inside. They're on a thick bed of compost on top of dead leaves. I already scattered leftover Winter Over spring onion seed around, as it's a disappointing germinator and I don't feel like I've lost anything. The White Lisbon is growing in modules and a window box in succession plantings.

Black sunflowers went in, in various places, a few days ago. I'll start some indoors too. I planted a rosebush out from the too-small pot to the garden, as it feels like this is a warm spring, and the garden is sheltered. If it gets nippy, I'll fleece it. Hardening off would be ideal, except I don't trust myself to remember to bring it in at night. The rose bush got asparagus peas sown next to it. If they sprout, great - if not, I have some in the greenhouse that can go out in a week or so, once the slug nematodes have done their thing. I'll plant garlic nearby.

I put poached egg plant in both places outside where I hope to try an outdoor tomato plant or two. The bulk will stay, all alone, in the greenhouse as I would actually like some fruit.

I have lots and lots more to sow tomorrow.
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Back out into the garden again, on *another* warm sunny spring day - although we did have a hard frost a few days ago. Yesterday, it rained sideways, until I fell downstairs and badly twisted my ankle, after which it became warm and dry and perfect gardening weather. Today was lovely to begin with so, regardless of my ankle, out I went.

My 'normal' peas, Kelvedon Wonder, (not sugar snap or mange tout or sweet or asparagus) have developed a white mould, so that tray is out in the open to dry out. Everything else in the tray is burgeoning and couldn't be healthier. I have baaaaaaaaaaaby watercress. So tiny! I think I am down one leek, leaving 15. Everything else is still alive too, including the rocket which has lots of new true leaves and should be ready to harvest in four weeks or so, if it doesn't all suddenly die.

The rhubarb is alive and very well, with several leaves out now. I've dumped some asparagus crowns behind it, two different sorts the names of which I can't remember. At the time I planted them, which is to say this morning, the place where I put the asparagus was as far back as I could go. As it gets tallish, it's fine being the backmost plant. Of course, since then I've hacked into a thorn bush and the laurel, and now there's several feet of bare earth behind it, even counting the space for the growing fronds. I don't know what will play nicely with rhubarb, asparagus and strawberry and be taller than any of them.

I found a strand of bramble that had snaked out onto the lawn, disguised as cut twigs, and looped round to go back into the overgrown evergreen shrubbery again. I cut off the loop, cut it into sections and put it into a pot. Tame blackberries would be very nice.

The blackcurrant bushes have stinging nettles sprouting behind them, but apparently stinging nettle is very good for blackcurrants, so I have left it. The space underneath that the nettles don't get is going to be full of sage and nasturtiums later.

The west-facing wall, where I would eventually like fruit trees, has revealed two rose bushes hidden under the blown-down climber (winter jasmine? not sure). I'm planning to put all sorts of peas there this year, with winter squash and spinach underneath, interspersed with lavender and rosemary. The herbs will stay there but I'll have different veg next year, and have the peas where the leeks are now. My in-between planting there is rocket salad and pak choi, sown in August over the cut-down peas in the spaces between/under winter squash plants. I haven't fully sorted out the architecture of putting squashes in, but I know they like peas. I hope they like spinach.

The leeks and spring onions will have companion plants too: carrots (red, purple and fly-repelling orange) and purple-sprouting broccoli and romanesco. Marigolds will probably be in front of this bed, as well as dotted around elsewhere where they can do the most good.

My north-facing fence is wild. It's filled with shrubbery, snowdrops, rotting logs and cut twigs and is left alone, although it's probably getting a load of woodland-mixture wild seed at some point. Everywhere I'm not actively growing vegetables is getting wild flower mix.

Bulb-wise, the daffodils are *still* not out, and there's some hyacinth making an appearance, although obviously it has a long way to go. There are a lot of not-flowering bulbs that look like snowdrops - lots of healthy green or green-and-silver, but no flowers. Not sure what to do with those.

My ankle doesn't like me any more.


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May 2014

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