The weather finally changed over the last few days from vicious, cold winds to more benign conditions and it meant that I could finally plant out the tender veg. They have been outside in the ‘holding area’ and were looking OK though the runner and French beans are a bit scorched – I think they will pull through though. It was a balancing act between getting them out to make room for the tomatoes in the greenhouse and waiting for better conditions outside so the tender veg would not be damaged.
The old saying of ‘cast ne’er a clout till May be out’ generally holds true, meaning that it is not safe to put out tender plants till May is out. But does that refer to the month of May being over or to the flowers of may (hawthorn or crataegus) being open? No one ever seems sure but I tend to go for the hawthorn blossom. Sometimes it is open in April but this year it is exceptionally late and in the local area it is only just starting to open, luckily coinciding more or less with the month so it won’t matter which version you like to stick with! Anyway, yesterday was one of the best days of the year so my instinct tells me to plant.
The soil was still moist and on Friday the conditions were perfect so I got planting. Rain was forecast for last night so I hoped they would get a good watering in too. (it didn’t rain so more watering was needed!)
I am growing four different sweetcorn, a dozen or so pumpkins and squash and 25 tomatoes, slightly down on last year. I have been a little less experimental with the tomatoes this year, with fewer weird ones but more reds and no greens, which were not that well received, and a concentration on big ones and cherries.
The squash were all sown about five weeks ago with one or two seeds per cell and if two seeds germinated I pinched out the smaller or weaker one. There is no need to sow earlier because the seedlings grow so fast. I think I had the sowing time right this year because the seedlings are all healthy with no signs of stress through being in the pots too long.
Most of the bed where I planted the squash, and all the beds where I am growing big pumpkins, have had a thick mulch of strawy manure. The soil was first covered in mushroom compost and that was rotovated in first. The strawy manure has only been stacked for a few months so it is not really good for digging in but is ok for mulching and any unrotted straw will provide a clean surface for the pumpkins to sit on. The mulch will keep in soil moisture and also act as a buffer against the wind so the young seedlings, which are very brittle, are not too bashed around. The main problem with partially composted straw is that it can encourage slugs so I will protect the young plants.
It is difficult to give pumpkins enough room – they are giant plants – so mine are about 1m apart in a line in the bed which is about 2m wide. I know they will cover this and try to climb up the greenhouse.
Squash are the most important summer crop to me, after tomatoes, but sweetcorn comes next and it is essential that I have lots of sweet, tender cobs that can be picked and eaten raw off the plants. The seeds were sown at the same time as the squash with one seed per cell in 12 cell trays.
The area is a south/west facing bed with a wall behind and the area was covered in mushroom compost and rotovated (hence the mushrooms).
As with planting anything, make sure the plants are well watered before planting or it will be very difficult to water the rootballs of the seedlings once planted. The seedlings are planted about 30cm apart in a block. Sweetcorn is pollinated by wind, the pollen dropping from the male flowers at the top of the plant onto the female flowers, that will become cobs, below. I plant the seedlings slightly deeper than in the pots because they will form stabilising roots from the base of the stem.
And finally the tomatoes have been planted – about 100 plants plus some peppers, chillies and physalis. Some tomato plants were showing signs of stress with the leaves developing a purple tinge from starvation. But they will recover and they are nicely settled in now. I am looking forward to good crops from my favourite three crops.