Here in the gardens we are enjoying some lovely sunny days, even though the odd day still throws up some chill easterly winds. But with the increased temperatures comes an increasing work load, as we come into one of the busiest months in the garden. The last of the spring tidy up, and the planting of gaps in the borders, grass cutting in full swing, weeding, watering, sowing, pricking out….. It certainly feels as if everything comes at once.
The greenhouse is filling up nicely with an array of vegetable and flower seedlings all vying for space. Even the cold frames are nearly full with plants hardening off so they can be planted out in a few weeks’ time. The first of the seeds are being sown in the open ground of the walled garden, and will continue apace as we enter May. The idea of these sowings is to do small batches every couple of weeks to avoid us getting a glut of vegetables. The earliest of our sowings were done into our hot beds made in 2 of the large frames. These were made by putting in 2ft plus of manure from the stables lightly patting it down then giving it good water. The frames were then placed over the top and given a couple of weeks to warm up, after which time a layer of compost was put over the beds. After a further week they were sown with spring onions, radish, spinach, salad, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and cauliflower. These are just starting to get ready for harvesting, which gives us a good few weeks picking to help us get over the so called hungry gap period.
In the main garden we have been planting up a new lavender walk. The old plants had become very woody so needed replacing. The old plants having been removed we dug over the beds and gave the whole area a good weed. No compost or anything was given to the beds, as lavender will grow and flower much better on poor stony ground. These will be kept well pruned after flowering each year to keep them from getting to woody again. The beds on the long border are starting to fill up with new growth after lifting and dividing everything over the winter. We had planted up lots of pots with tulips and we are now planting them to fill up the beds. They are getting a further weed over then will receive a good layer of well-rotted compost, which will not only help with ongoing weeding but help retain moisture.
The lilies in pots are growing away well, but we have seen the first sign of the dreaded lily beetle. Adults spend the winter underground and emerge from late March onwards. Over the next several months the female can lay around 200 – 300 eggs. They spend about 10 days hatching then feed for about a month then pupate into the soil again, so they are around for most of the summer. This makes the lily beetle one of the more serious pests in the garden, even though they haven’t been around for all that long in the UK. Like most pests they originated in Western Asia, and were first spotted over here in around 1939, here in the South East.