Well here we are almost six months into the year and glorious June is just about ready to open its doors to warm sunny days. That is what all us gardeners hope for as the gardens and plots are now burgeoning with all those plants. The sunny days of last week brought the colour back to the leaves of those plants that had battled the April showers and cool nights. Like us, there is nothing like the feel of the sun on your face and the warmth both day and night. Yes, it is summer at last, so let’s enjoy it!
The last tender plants can now be set free from the greenhouse and cold frame with an air of certainty that cold weather will not sudden spring up and destroy them. My courgettes are the last to leave the shelter of the cold frame and they sit proud on their mounded hill ready to ramble around and produce a bumper crop. I grow both yellow and green ones so that my wife can make colourful dishes from these prolific vegetables.
The greenhouse staging has all been removed and stored away until the far off autumn, so that the peppers and aubergines can be planted out and enjoy the company of the tomatoes and cucumbers. It's a long wait for them to bring forth these crops, which seem to be forever in the making considering these seeds were sown way back in March. I hope they perform better this year and will reward my patience.
The plot is full almost to bursting point and I look around for small areas into which to sow a few fast growing salad crops. There always appears a small gap somewhere to fit these in.
After a slow start the weeds have kept their heads down but, with the better conditions suiting them, the work begins to stop them over-running my precious seedlings. Why is it that weeds seem to grow at a far quicker rate than seeds sown by ourselves? With the sun high in the sky it is like standoff at noon, as the sharp hoe appears from the shed and is wielded with gusto among the rows of plants severing the weeds' roots from their tops and allowing the sun to do its work by shrivelling them to nothing. Some trickier ones take to hiding in among the seedlings, but these are not safe as the finger and thumb will soon yank them from this safety.
It is not only the weeds that have been in waiting, those pests have been lurking in the shadows for the right conditions to emerge and look for a good meal on our tender new plants. So war has been declared on these too and vigilance is the name of the game to prevent them feasting on my crops before I do. Who said gardening was a friendly, peaceful pastime?
Last week was the week when gardeners head to London to see what delights the Chelsea Flower Show brings forth. There are gardens from the exotic to the outrageous to admire but, for a vegetable man like me, it always lacks a corner where this growing trend can be admired. Still it takes you to a world of fantasy and allows me to admire the skills of the garden designer at its best.
Many people suffer badly during the gardening season and, as the pollen levels rise, many people suffer those runny noses and eyes. It must be agony to be a hay fever sufferer and pay the price for being out in the open air. This year is going to particularly bad as the dry March followed by a wet April has created the perfect growing conditions for grasses and large amounts of air-borne pollen is set free. So Chelsea created the near perfect garden for people who suffer from this condition and many of our favourite plants such as geraniums, hostas and Japanese Maples among others were planted with these people in mind. So even if you are a sufferer of this unpleasant condition, you can create a spot in your garden where you can sit and enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors without the pollen pain!
If you visited Chelsea I hope you enjoyed the experience and learned some new gardening planting to suit your taste.
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My Life On A Hillside Allotment
Terry Walton is a regular contributor to The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and has written a book called My Life on a Hillside Allotment, published by Bantam Press. Buy this book at a discount from the Saga Bookshop.