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Nipped by the frost

12 MAY 2020

This morning I heard Alan Titchmarsh on the Today programme being interviewed abo

ut the best thing to put into our gardens to cheer us up, now garden centres are reopening. He was talking about bedding plants, saying that the garden centres had reopened just in time to save the bedding stock from being dumped. But he warned there is still a chance of frost at this time of year, so be careful, adding that his potatoes had just been nipped by the frost the previous night. I immediately went out to check my 6 long beds of potatoes which have been looking great, and at first sight I thought they were ok. Sadly, when I was working in that section of the garden later in the day, I realised that almost all of them had been burned by the frost, such a shame! However, this will not kill them but it will slightly check their growth. It makes me relieved that I’ve held back from planting out any companion planting that could be tender. Not much point going to the trouble of raising all these plants from seed, only to have them killed by the frost.


Whilst I am going through the morning routine with the elderlies a district nurse arrived unexpectedly to see Jean. This is apparently to check on her legs and it is also part of her palliative care programme. The nurse seemed happy with how we were treating things, including Jean’s self inflicted damage from her incessant scratching and fiddling. We do keep a surgical glove on Jean’s mobile hand (which the nurses approve of) to try and reduce the damage from the scratching, but Jean will even bite the fingers off the glove! On the care front it turns out to be a hard day, Jean is particularly demanding and rude today, the buzzer goes off frequently with alternating complaints of her back being sore and then demanding “scratch my back!”. She has no recollection that she has just complained of a sore back, it feels like ‘Groundhog Day’.

I turn to watering to calm my nerves, watering is very soothing, well until the hose pipe gets kinked and stops working!

I water the brassicas and then decide to water the onions, shallots and garlic. Some of the Autumn onions have grown quite well but are trying to flower before they mature, this is a common problem with Autumn onions, well it is for me. I decide to treat them as giant spring onions, and to start eating them now. One goes into my sandwich for lunch and a bunch of them get used in Meave’s stir fry vegetables at dinnertime.

I have already noticed that the organ pipe bed needs watering and I decide to water all the roses in the fruit tree border as I guide the hose back to the tap. This is all additional watering to the normal daily routine of watering the polytunnel and cold frames, and before I know it an hour has passed.

The new swimming pool chemicals have arrived so my next job is pool maintenance. I study their instructions and apply them. Unbelievably it is now time for lunch and I have one of my cheese salad sandwiches. My sandwiches are usually greeted with comments from the girls like, “are you sure you can’t get any more lettuce in that sandwich Mum?”! It is true, my sandwiches resemble lettuce mountains… the lettuce in the polytunnel (which have been amazing) are now beginning to go to seed and are shooting up like lettuce tower blocks. I remove leaves from my lettuces rather than removing the entire lettuce and these towering lettuces have lots of succulent leaves which I’m determined not to waste, hence my doorstep lettuce sandwiches!

After lunch, I plant out my new lettuces, amongst the few that have self seeded which are further on than the new seedling plants. These should ensure that the supply continues, and I will just keep sowing fresh seed. We manage to pretty much keep eating our own salad leaves all year. I then rake over a large, newly weeded bed (thank you James), in the brassica corner, and plant out 40 broccoli/calabrese plants. The broccoli in the polytunnel is just beginning to produce heads, so these plants will be the next crop. When this is finished I continue weeding the few smaller raised beds that link the brassica and bean/onion quarters. These beds house permanent plantings of unusual fruits e.g. guava berry, manuka and perennial herbs including flax and feverfew.

As I walk around the garden I am very proud to see how the borders are maturing and filling out. The tiny plants that had been put in when the borders were originally created have now mainly become established and have grown beautifully. It is quite amazing when you consider that the first ornamental planting was 2015 with the field border, then 2016 with the fruit tree border and 2017 with the central borders. It is truly miraculous to see how things have grown.

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