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Blooming Crab Apple

My crab apple in bloom for Easter

So, as usual, the weather this spring is proving to be the gardener’s greatest foe. The warm March weather has brought on some plants, only for them to be hit by the cold spell at the start of April. My newly purchased espalier apple tree was starting to come into bud but with the weather forecast predicting more frost I was worried they would get damaged, which would potentially ruin any much anticipated first crop of apples.

It was Tuesday night on our way back from swimming that I noticed the car said it was only 4C. A perfectly clear night and our breath visible in the air, I felt fairly sure it would be a hard frost. So there we were at 10pm in the back garden with only the light of the moon to guide us, erecting a bamboo cane and fleece contraption around the tree in the hope this would protect the new fruit buds. This was after a quick detour to the allotment when I realised I had taken all the canes up to the plot several weeks earlier and there were none left in the shed.

Protecting our apple tree from frost

Protecting our apple tree from frost

The cane/fleece construction did need some further work to it later in the week when Wellyman discovered that there were spots where the fleece had been touching the buds and they had suffered a little frost damage. Fortunately, it was nothing serious and after some more canes were added and the fleece stretched a little it seems to have provided the tree with sufficient protection. Although, as I write the fleece is now sagging under the weight of Bank Holiday rain and will need some remedial work before tonight and another predicted frost. Remind me why I wanted my own apple tree.

I spent Saturday afternoon sowing more seed and potting on. My larkspur, antirrhinums and scabious were all ready to go into individual pots. This is always a difficult moment for the gardener without a greenhouse. Deciding how many seedlings my window sills can cope with. It’s a balance between available space to grow on, how many I need and keeping some as spares in case some come a cropper due to pests, diseases, the weather or my own clumsiness. It’s hard having to get rid of perfectly good seedlings but there’s no point in keeping too many and not being able to look after them and they all suffer. Much better to be a bit ruthless and give all your care and attention to a few but end up with really strong healthy plants.

Seed sown included cosmos, rudbeckias, zinnias, spring onions, some primrose seeds in the green and some more peas. I also resowed a batch of white larkspur because the first batch didn’t germinate. Strangely, the blue larkspur sown at the same time germinated really well but not one of the white ones popped up. It’s annoying when this happens but at least at this time of year there is still a chance for plants to catch up.

Cosmos 'Candy Stripe'

Cosmos 'Candy Stripe' - hopefully it won't be too long before I'm picking these flowers

I am running out of space though so I’m hoping temperatures will start to warm up a little over the next couple of weeks then I can start moving plants out to the allotment and others can take their place in the cold frame. April and May are just one big juggling act and much as I enjoy seed sowing there is a great sense of relief when June arrives and all the plants are in their final positions.

And finally we tackled the shed …. again. I know this is a running theme but the shed is the engine room of the garden and my shed is by no means a well oiled machine. It did get a bit of a tidy up back in March but the problem is I’m so often in a rush that when I’ve finished in the garden I tend to just dump everything in there. Another problem is spiders. Now I am much better than I used to be. I’ve been able to share the shed with 2 fairly enormous arachnids for the last couple of months. It has meant one pile of pots has been out-of-bounds because I could see the legs of one spider peeking out from behind them on the shed wall but that was fine I had plenty of other pots I could use. Wellyman, however decided that whilst we were tidying out the shed anyway he might as well rehome the spiders.

Now I know the spiders are big when I hear a Wellyman’s voice from the shed say ‘Oh yes … that’s a big one’. I, of course, am several feet away at this point doing important pot sorting out tasks. Both spiders were captured, after a degree of huffing and puffing, in a container and taken to a flower border near the local bus stop. Hopefully they don’t have homing instincts, like snails. So here’s to Wellyman, my spider catching and releasing hero! And here’s to my newly tidied shed, pots neatly stacked, rubbish bagged up and waiting to go to the tip and I can see the floor again. The challenge now is to keep it that way for the rest of the summer.