May Miscellany

Scrambling through the shrubbery
Sunshine at last here in the north Cotswolds (second day running!) and, according to the Met Office weather chart, it’s pretty much stable over the whole of England and Wales. High pressure of 1024 millibars over the whole country, so not much damaging wind either. The sunshine is much needed to encourage my young seedlings to put on a growth spurt. It’s been far too cold for newly sown veg to thrice, except the lettuce under cloches. And the high winds a couple of days ago have destroyed any chance of a crop of walnuts this year – all the male catkins were blown off before pollinating the female flowers.

Squash seedlings needing the sun before they can be transplanted
Nothing goes according to plan in our garden. I was going to post some hints today on growing squash vertically where space is at a premium, for left to their own devices they will trail indiscriminately here, there and everywhere. Mine are still at seedling stage and haven’t yet emerged, but so I cannot present a proper step-by-step, but have images that will show you what I mean. It’s not too late to sow seed – one per pot. Press them vertically into the compost and cover with vermiculite. Once two or more true leaves appear, and all danger of frost is over, they can be transplanted. 

Training squash vertically - tied onto canes - in my 'Grow-bag Garden'
Grow them up canes, as here. You will need to tie with soft twine every few inches or sow for if you don’t they will wave weave around in the air like some triffid destined to catch you unawares. And if you are wondering why this plant is emerging from a grow-bag, well that’s perfectly possible out of doors and something I did a few years back when I was clearing new ground of perennials weeds. I simply killed the weed by covering the area with an old tarpaulin and utilising the space as a grow-bag-veg plot.

And another method - peg the trailers circular fashion on the ground
Another tip for training trailing squash came from the National Trust – Upton House near Banbury in north Oxfordshire. They have a magnificent large sloping plot on which they grown vegetables and fantastic fruit. It’s worth a visit if you are in the area. In this instance, the squash were planted on mounds of soil, with an empty plant pot sunk alongside for watering. (do this with the grow-bag method, too; water and liquid fertiliser reach the roots more easily). As the plants start to trail, you peg them down circular-fashion, winding the stems into ever larger circles. We did not go back to see them at this stage, but I sketched the idea recently in my Garden Jotter.

Tiny sketch top right indicates a peg-down squash
Talking of Jotters, Diaries and Notebooks, the theme may be anathema to some readers, but they really do serve a useful purpose. I have just walked up through the orchard from checking the new hens, with jotter in hand and noticed that there is a good set of pears, the first allium is flowering in the ‘wilderness’, and the comfrey is alive with bumblebees, hanging upside down to reach the nectar. I have various comfreys planted around the place. I find them beautiful so full of life, and have just acquired a new variety. Some are invasive but are kept under control by cutting back and feeding the leaves onto the compost heap - ideal as a compost activator between layers of other material.

My latest photo scrapbook page - all the images were taken in the
garden this morning, apart from the Squash plant and flowers
After a month of use, my little Pocket Garden Jotter has only one page left; with its tiny and scrappy sketches, it encapsulates a retarded Spring far more vividly than my words-only notebooks. I will create a Summer jotter for June and hope that it will be filled with productive produce and glorious flowers. My camera is my other means of keeping records, more snapshots than digital art but again, a record that, if kept up-to-date, allows us to compare weather and growth patterns, good and bad years, and the sheer joy of gardening.

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