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April Frosts & Blossom.

Late in March we had a couple of record warm days and they were followed by some rather cold days and nights that kept coming until well into April. In fact we had several sharp frosts right up until the middle of April when I started writing this article.
As April came the Allotmenteers on our site started planting their Potato tubers, but the frosts werenít a problem for them as the tubers did not start shooting for a few weeks. Most people had put their Onions and garlic in as well by then and not much else, so again the cold didnít prove a problem for them. Indeed, the cold seems to have held a lot of things back a bit which, given the long dry spell that we have had, hasnít been a bad thing either.

The Trees seem to be a bit late leafing up this time as well, although they are putting on quite a show with their Blossom. The Flowering Cherry Tree on the corner of the road where I used to live has been particularly spectacular this year and many people commented on it on the Village FaceBook Page. This Cherry flowered before the Pear trees both in my garden and on my Allotment, and the Asian Pear, also on my Allotment, was later. My Quince, Apples and Medlar will start flowering any day now as their flower buds are swelling nicely. The Peach Tree in Moms Garden always used to flower quite early as well and because of this the flowers of Peaches, Apricots and Nectarines are often damaged by late frosts, so it is always recommended that the trees are loosely covered with Horticultural Fleece at night. Do remember to remove the Fleece in the daytime to let the insects get at them to pollinate them though.

In fact I have just planted a Bare Root Apricot on my Plot. The variety is supposed to one that is better suited to the English Climate and although, I received it rather late for Bare Root, it was still in tight bud, so I guess it might have been kept in cold storage. Before planting the little tree, I soaked it in a bucket of water and then filled the planting hole with another bucket full. I will have to keep it well watered for a few months until it gets established to give it the best chance.

Last year the Fig Leaves and Grape Vines were so badly damaged by late frosts, that I had virtually no grapes at all, but both seem to be coming late this time, although, the buds on one or two varieties of Figs that I have, are showing signs of starting to swell. There are not even any signs of buds coming on my Grape Vines at all yet though, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that this year will give a better harvest.

My fruit trees were protected from pests by Grease Bands, or Glue Bands as they are now called, or thatís what I thought, but when I looked at them they had lost all of their Sticky through the Winter, so I removed them. I should have replaced them, because the fruit buds are only now starting to form and develop following on from the Flowers. Pests can still get into the Buds during the Buds early formation, but as I couldnít get any Bands I didnít bother. Removing the old ties that held them however, will allow the trees to swell as they grow, because any ties can strangle trees if forgotten and left on too long.
When handling new Glue Bands there is a simple trick to clean the sticky from your hands, that someone once told me. Very simply you need to rub your hands thoroughly in dry Dust before washing them with ordinary soap and this works like magic to clean them.

A few people have used the extra time that the slow start has given them to prepare the ground for planting their Runner beans by trenching and composting the beds where the rows are to go in. You can see Wigwams and stands of canes all nicely tied up gradually appearing all over the site, but I do wonder how many have used a natural string that will decompose when all the rubbish is cleared up and put on the Compost Heap at the end of the season.

Sometimes the Sea Kale on my plot gets caught by the cold as it is so early to harvest, but the Buckets have kept it warm and I have had a fantastic crop this year. Now, I have removed all of the Buckets as the Flower stalks are starting to develop. I wonít let the stalks get much bigger though, before I cut them all off, after which, the Plants will produce an abundance of large
Cabbage like leaves that will feed the plants ready for next years harvest.

With all the cold weather we have been having, my Greenhouse Heater has been working overtime during the frosty nights, but, although a lot of the days have also been cold with biting winds, the Sun has been strong through the glass keeping the daytime temperature up inside.
Amazingly though, during the cold spell that we have had in April, I have seen the Local Garden Centre selling Runner Beans and Tomato plants from their outside display area, not inside! There were other tender plants on sale outside as well including Pelargoniums that are a bit hardier, but I am sure that the Phoenix Canariensis, or Canary Islands Date Palms, wonít stand up to Frosts. Again the Callistemons that were on display, are a bit hardier, but they looked like they had just come from a supplier, so they would have lots of tender growth on them. In fact there were loads of Palms of one sort or another for sale outside, although, some like many of the Chinese Palms would be OK. Indeed, I have a Chamaerops Humilis in my back garden that I brought with me from moms house that is slow growing and tough as old boots.

I do think that Garden Centres have some duty to sell plants responsibly and I feel that the Garden Centre near to me that I visited was not being fair to its customers by offering tender plants for sale outside, at the wrong time of year, simply to maximise sales and profits. In the Good Old Days you could go to a garden centre and get helpful and sound advice about plants from people that cared about them, but no more it seems.

 

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