Rain, rain and more rain!

One cowslip plant has self-seeded to become a large patch in our orchard -
stakes mark the outlying plants to prevent them being 'mown out' 
After a more than unusually warm end to March, with accompanying drought, is there anywhere that is not now soggy and waterlogged? And it’s likely to remain so, and cold with it, for a while yet. Take a look at today’s BBC Weather website – and click on the link to weatherman John Hammond’s explanation on why this is happening. The damp conditions have actually favoured our expanding cowslip patch, begun from a single (purchased) plant five years ago - not one taken from the wild.
Sowing seed in my double-tier raised bed last Saturday (21st) between showers
It’s doubly irritating when you cannot even get onto the ground to sow seeds, which is where raised beds come into there own – particularly good I have discovered for elderly gardeners if you have them at double height. You can now acquire them this way; mine started off as singles last year – it’s perfectly possible to add another layer – I converted  from single- to two-tier to benefit my early potatoes (and there's still time to order and plant a late crop). Sowing seed was easier, too, less back-breaking when bending down.
Half a raised bed devoted to young salads - in the foreground, are mixed
cut-and-come again lettuce; pegged pots keep fleece from touching seedlings
Last Saturday (21st April) I sowed half of one bed in the Courtyard Potager with salads, using a length of wood to mark out drills at 5in (13cm) intervals – closer together than recommended; but that’s the beauty of a raised bed system – you don’t have to leave space for cultivation or hoeing weeds; the crops grow into each other and potential weed-growth is suppressed. This is what my salad patch will provide in a few short weeks: Spinach F1 Lazio Babyleaf, Bulls Blood Beet, red picking Lettuce Granada, Lettuce Cos Pandero (try this as a substitute), Greek Cress, Rocket Runaway, Radish Jolly and Spring Onion Lilia.
Pegging down the bubble-plastic to protect the newly sown bed from 'intruders'
After sowing, and covering with just a light dusting of compost, the bed was covered with plastic: the soil was already sufficiently damp that watering was not needed and warmth from whatever sunshine emerged would help germination. Waterlogging would certainly have occurred had I not used this bubble plastic.
Clearing a weedy patch of ground so we could give each grandchild
their own raised bed - they subsequently sowed and planted veg (and strawberries!)
The seeds are already emerging and the plastic has been removed to be replaced by a cloche – more to keep off birds and cats than the rain! With such speedy germination, I was reminded of the excitement of two of our grandchildren when, seven years ago, they spent part of the summer clearing a patch of ground for their own raised beds. Children want immediacy; so the seeds I sowed last week would have been ideal for such a project. Perfect in fact to encourage any child to eat green veg and salads – they will try what they have grown themselves, though these two are very used to home-grown veg.
Getting ready for visitors to the Dobies stand
Show Garden Special: I discover that the Dobies display at the Malvern Spring Flower Show (May 10th-13th) will focus on edibles: ‘Beat the Spiralling Cost of Food’ is their theme on Stand OS564, Plant Pavilions. The team are busy building a small garden with a colourful  'psychedelic' feel.  It will highlight Dobies fabulous and high quality veg varieties which are much cheaper to grow than to buy, therefore triumphing over the spiralling cost of supermarket foods! Price reductions on Dobies seed as well, so buy your Show tickets here. I can't wait.

Next week sees the publication of the May 2012 edition of the e-newsletter, and the following week (10th or 11th) we'll be blogging live from Malvern.


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