Real Men Sow

This Crazy Weather, It’s Effects on the Plot, and Some Ways Around It.

floppy rhubarbIt’s been a tough old year so far. I can’t visit the plot or log on to Twitter without someone threatening a rain dance. Provisional Met Office data indicates that last month was the warmest UK April on record, as well as the 11th driest month ever.

PSB Confusion
The unusually high April temperatures completely confuddled my purple sprouting broccoli, acting as some kind of time machine, and persuading the plants that it was 6 weeks later. After a promising start, the broccoli grew leggy, and in a flash, little yellow flowers appeared and the PSB had gone to seed for this year.

Slow Down Seedlings!
Lots of seedlings were also growing much too fast, leading Jan a merry dance in the greenhouse. My poor old mum was in a right tizz about delicate plants being ready to go out before the risk of frost had gone, and inundated me with panicky text messages from Sowing HQ.

Rain: Missing in Action
Once upon a time, we also used to have this thing called ‘rain’ here. I live in one of the driest districts in England, but even so, I don’t reckon we’ve had decent rain for three months now – let alone the proper cats and dogs downpours. A nearby plotholder reckons we’ve had just 3mm since March.

This is playing havoc on the plot: my profitable and productive rhubarb has suddenly gone all floppy, bendy and soft, and many of my direct sown seeds such as carrots and peas have struggled to break through the concrete-like soil. The leaves on my potatoes and raspberries are showing a worrying yellow colour too.

Blowing a Hoolie
And now we’ve got hoolie-like wind to contend with. A couple of my rain-starved French beans have been flattened already. I planted out my tomatoes today, but am regretting it now. Those that aren’t half way to France already will have taken a right battering this afternoon – not the best start to life outdoors.

Looking on the Bright Side
However, this is of course a cheery allotment blog, so there’s no room for all this doom and gloom. There are ways and means around these problems!

Well, some of them anyway. I’ve transferred my peas and mangetout sowings from the windy, dry allotment to containers in my sheltered garden. They all germinated, and the young plants are looking really verdant and healthy.

I’m also shoehorning a few more delicate veg into the garden this week, away from the elements. I planted out some little lettuce seedlings in a border today, rather than forcing them to brave the plot gusts.

Container French Beans?
The weather has pushed me into the odd experiment, too. Given the questionable progress of my allotment French beans, I’ve also attempted a garden container sowing of a dwarf variety. They’re actually well on the way to overtaking their allotment counterparts.

Having the plants in the garden also means that I can easily find the time to water them every day.

The Veg That *Is* Doing Well
There are some veg that is coping well, so I’ve started sowing more of this. The beetroot doesn’t seem to give a monkey’s about the conditions, and is happily pushing on. I love beetroot, and growing too much is never a problem as I can always pickle them for using in salads come winter time.

Another veg that seems indifferent to the weather is perpetual spinach. I’ve doubled the amount I’ve planted from half a row to a whole one. This chard variety is dead useful in all sorts of dishes. I’m also finding interesting ways of making it last longer, like Veg Box Veggie’s ace spinach pesto recipe.

Given how well they freeze, I’m going to keep sowing pea after pea after pea too, depending on not just how many free-but-mostly-grotty containers I can lay my hands on, but also the amount Ailsa will let me have in the garden.

In the meantime, if you do happen to get any rain, please feel free to send it South-East. It’ll be welcomed with open arms, and can stay as long as it wants.

Apart from June 18th, because I’m getting married. :)


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  1. RonnieMay 23, 2011 at 9:08 pmReply

    Its all so crazy isn’t it? I will keep my fingers crossed for the 18th June as long as you do the same for 2 July. It can rain any time around those two dates. Let us hope we have some plants left in the ground to benefit from the rain when it does come.

  2. Jono

    JonoMay 24, 2011 at 6:25 amReplyAuthor

    Thanks Ronnie, its a deal.

    I’ve got a horrible feeling June’s going to be monsoon season!

    Craziest year I’ve known. Ironically, it did try and rain after I’d posted last night, but it didn’t come to anything. It’s almost like the rain is constipated!

  3. CroilaMay 24, 2011 at 3:22 pmReply

    No rain in three months?! I just can NOT imagine that at all! I think it’s fair to say we don’t ever get a week without rain. And the last fortnight has been horrible.

    Never mind the gales we had up here last night. My dwarf runner “Hestia” beans which I grew from seed and planted out in a pot last weekend are all shrivelled and black now. Sowing some more is tonight’s job … *sigh*

  4. Jono

    JonoMay 24, 2011 at 9:25 pmReplyAuthor

    Good luck with the re-sow Croila. My French beans were a real success last year, and I even had to freeze a surplus. I’m not at all confident this year though. It just seems too dry, and even when I water the ground is so hard it just runs off.

    Next lot I plant out I think I’ll put in a little groove to keep the water in around the roots.

  5. SamMay 25, 2011 at 12:23 pmReply

    In contrast, in the NW we have had a lot of rain in the past fortnight. Tending to the plot has seen me sheltering in the shed a fair bit and the soil has been quite unworkable at times.

    Congratulations btw!

  6. Jono

    JonoMay 25, 2011 at 9:22 pmReplyAuthor

    Thanks Sam.

    Love your blog by the way. Have bookmarked. :)

  7. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » One Honeymoon, One Hardworking Mum and One Courgette.July 4, 2011 at 8:07 pmReply

    [...] to me that my cheery blog had been rather depressing, with tales of forever failing spring onions, crazy weather and the damage it was doing to the plot and snail decimations. So, its time to share some good news I [...]

  8. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » I Have Outdoor Aubergines, But Don’t Really Know HowSeptember 16, 2011 at 5:14 pmReply

    [...] The dry conditions left me confused, pondering how I could get around these problems. [...]

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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