May 6, 2023

A morning in the garden in May

It has been a cold year here in the UK and many vegetables that I usually grow are very behind in their growth, despite the fact that I sowed lots of seeds in February.  I always sow early so that I get a longer season.  Sometimes I can be eating tomatoes at the end of June and have plenty of salad, courgette and Pak choi in May.  This year that will not be happening, though the courgette have some fruit on.

I spent the morning in the garden today and took the risk to plant some of my crops outside as the greenhouse is crammed full, and my dining room table has been taken over by plants, as have my window sills.  I didn’t plant all of them, but just a selection of each and so if we get a suprise frost, I will not lose everything and have to start again.  Some vegetables like lettuce and radishes I do keep sowing successional crops.  I also planted some potatoes today and I plant those every couple of weeks until September so that they do not all crop at once.

As I have said before in previous blogs, I plant most things in containers as most of my garden is flag stones and tiered up a big hill.  I even have fruit trees in tubs. I am planting more than usual this year due to the price of food increasing and rumours about food shortages.

Today I planted a few peas and beans, pak choi, salad and courgette outside.  I also re-potted 10 tomatoes and put them into the greenhouse, and have another 60 or more to repot.  Anything that is in the house I always transfer to the greenhouse before planting outside, and will often leave them outside during the day to get used to the wind and the temperature, and put them back in the green house at night when the temperature drops.

I don’t use brand new soil every year as I could not afford that.  Instead I empty the tubs that I grew vegetables in last year, mix some of the old soil with new home grown compost, some bone meal or other fertiliser pellets if I have some, and some perlite. I never plant the same crop in the same soil as it was grown in last year to prevent disease spreading.  I rotate the crop 3 times over 3 years. I sieve the soil of each pot before using it again in the tub and always check the soil for pests.  This year I found some white grubs which are vine weevils under my strawberry plants and so I had to repot those in fresh soil.  Apparently the eggs are invisible and so I got a tarpaulin and spread the soil out for the birds to eat the grubs and I have stored the soil in an old plastic box with a lid.  I will keep spreading it out on hot sunny days and see what happens as I would prefer not to dump the soil but I do not want to infect any other crops.

I pulled some more rhubarb this morning.  This is the 4th lot this year and it is doing well as it is only 3 years old.  It is growing in the ground on the boarder next to the fence.  My soil is mainly clay but I added lots of organic material to it to break it up.  Rhubarb did not work very well in a tub when I tried it.  I am using it to make compote for breakfasts and desserts, crumbles, and today I am making a rhubarb upside down pudding in the microwave for dessert.


Something else I did today was collect moss that had been growing on the walls in my garden and I used this to line a hanging basket I found in the shed.  On my way home from a break on Monday I stopped at a garage that was selling petrol 3p cheaper a litre than at home and saw some begonias reduced from £3.50 to £1.08 as they were a bit battered.  Although my back garden is mainly for growing vegetables and fruit I do try to add flowers for pollination and to make it look a bit more colourful.  The vegetable flowers like the courgette flowers and beans and colour too.  I therefore filled the hanging basket today. The battered flowers will soon recover.  It was nice not to have to use plastic or buy coconut matting to line the basket.

The salad leaves are still babies but I have put them outside and crossed my fingers.  I grow them in catering size mushroom containers that Mr S got from work as they were being thrown away.  I have 3 different kinds of leaves.   I have planted some rocket in an old sweet container too as I want to see how it does in a smaller container that someone could have in their house. The spinach that I have been growing in the greenhouse and that I planted last September is doing well still, but it will bolt as soon as it gets hot.  I am getting about 3 handfuls a week now which I use in curries and salad.  It froze and did not grow during December and some of January but it recovered and has been giving me a crop again ever since.


This is the 3rd year that I have grown pak choi and I have found it a really useful crop as it pads out meals and is the basis for stir fry which I make as a main meal, but also as a side dish.  I have placed them a bit closer to each other this year to see how they do.

I use mulch a lot to cut down on watering as growing in containers means that you have to water regularly.  When I planted my peas I used the shells from the nuts that I got at Christmas as they will protect the soil but also deter slugs and snails.  It is another way to avoid waste too. These are in a pot on the steps at the side of my garden going to the next level.  The apple blossom from my tree in a pot can be seen next to it.  There are also beans further up the steps and both crops will give me some privacy from next door.

So today was the real start to my vegetable growing season as things have started to go outside.  It is so nice to feel like the season is starting as it has felt as if everything has been on hold recently.  Fingers crossed that things survive and I can plant some more in a week or so.  How are your gardens doing?  Is the weather impacting on your growing season as well?

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  1. Kathryn Naden May 6, 2023 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    You must be so pleased with what you have learnt & achieved over the years . I will take on board your idea of succession planting of potatoes next year . I have planted mine this year & I have preserved the wild garlic I once used to dig out & throw away . I’ve just onions & pots this year as planned a holiday at a time inconvenient for seeds to survive . I did consider sowing them& taking them on hols but hubby put his foot down ! I will hopefully get some seedlings on our return & celebrate whatever’s offered us this season once the work on conservatory has finished 🤞 Thank you for your inspiration .

    • ToniG May 8, 2023 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      Yes I have learned over the years and through mistakes. Buying seedlings is a good idea if you can not sow. That is the problem with growing food. You have to plan your holidays around being at home for certain months. I have taken a few on holiday before, but only in little containers that could go on the back shelf of the car.

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