In my early training years to become a gardener we were taught how to garden by the book. There was a good practise guide for all crops and if you followed it precisely you would get exhibition standard results.
No-one told us that only worked if the weather was on your side.
In them days weather was fairly predictable.
Winter ended at the end of March when grass cutting began, it was always cold at Easter, tulips always flowered in May, and summer started at the June bank holiday.
Move forward 50 years and you can throw that gardening book away.
Everything you do now is dependant on weather which is no longer reliable.
Winter and sometimes spring often fail to arrive; then summer starts in early spring followed by a return to winter.
Greenhouse plants put out to harden off have often had to go back inside when frost threatens.
This year we started off three weeks ahead after a mild winter so working with this idea seed sowing was advanced from the plan, but then it turned colder and the long dry spell came to an end.
We are now back into good gardening weather, so sowing, planting, weeding and numerous other gardening tasks are all going ahead at full speed.
Potatoes that had been planted in March are all well through so now earthing up has begun. Some were earthed up a few weeks ago as my earlies, Charlotte and Casablanca pushed through in early April when frost risk was still a threat so they needed to be protected.
So far they have been lucky and top growth is excellent so now we are well into May I keep my fingers crossed.
Dry weather prevailed in early to mid-April so watering was necessary over the whole plot. Leeks were very slow to germinate as soil temperatures were still low, and constant watering was necessary.
Green manure crops sown ahead of courgettes, pumpkin and sweet corn planting are still very slow to thicken up. Weeds are now trying to make up for lost time.
They were slow to get started but now the hoe has been out constantly to keep them in check. Early May is a good time for checking over the gooseberries looking for signs of sawfly damage, so give them an insecticide spray as soon as they appear as they very quickly devour the leaves in a few days.
Early strawberries protected with low polythene tunnels made a lot of growth with plenty flowers so it has been necessary to keep tunnels ventilated to reduce condensation, allow watering and weeding and let bees in to pollinate the flowers.
Young brassicas grown in cellular trays have now all been planted.
Clubroot resistant cabbage Kilaton, cauliflower Clapton, sprouts Crispus and kale all got planted into a block that had been composted in early winter then limed a couple of months later.
However they are all very prone to pests so collars were put round each one to prevent root fly attacks, netting used to keep out pigeons and cabbage white butterflies.
Then slug pellets were scattered around them as slugs and snails all survived the mild winter and are very hungry. Onion Hybound grown from seed in the greenhouse and pricked out into cellular trays were hardened off in mid April and planted out in early May.
An early batch of lettuce Lollo Rossa got planted out as a catch crop in between my two double rows of broad beans as well as in between my block of chrysanthemums.
Hopefully this lettuce will be ready for use before the beans and chrysanthemums need the space.
The mild winter helped growth on the chrysanthemum stools so I was able to take well over a hundred cuttings from twenty stools.
That gave me plenty for myself plus spares to give away.
I also planted a row in between two rows of cabbages.
The cabbages only grow 18inches so with chrysanthemums growing a lot taller they may well work together. Time will tell.
This has been a good time to give the compost heap its first turn over, and daffodils, tulips and pansies all get dead headed as spring flowers fade.
There’s never a weary moment on the plot.
Wee jobs to do this week
Check over apple trees for mildew and remove any primary infections.
Mildew spores over winter on infected buds then in spring the disease emerges and spreads to healthy leaves.
At this time of year the infected buds are totally covered in mildew so easy to spot and remove before they spread.