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2023-05 The Tatsfield Gardener in May – Jon Allbutt


After a long period of very wet and cold weather, the end of April saw our soggy soil start to dry out and the weather turned milder. The message for all Tatsfield gardeners is “Don’t panic!”, be patient. It may be a bit late but preparation for sowing and planting this month will be very good and your plants will catch up. To help this process you will need to cover the area around newly planted shrubs and perennials with a good much – the Tatsfield Composters have lots of Black Gold waiting for you to collect (Saturday mornings 10.00 – 12.00 and Wednesday afternoons 14.00 – 16.00).

I have a feeling that rainfall levels this month will be average to below average and you may have to water new plants and seedlings. As part of my new greenhouse project, I have installed two, 230-litre water butts, both of them were full by the end of April. Rainwater is free of the chemicals necessary to ensure our drinking water is safe, this is not harmful to most plants but there are some that are intolerant of alkaline (hard) water. All plants love rainwater and you are saving mains water!

Have you noticed how well our spring wildflowers are doing? This is especially so of our native wild Primrose; numbers are increasing on Tatsfield and Westmore Greens and along our hedgerows. If you are lucky enough to have Primroses in your garden remember how important it is not to cut off the flower heads until the seed capsules have turned brown and liberated those tiny brown seeds, this can take four to six weeks after flowering. The seeds will quickly germinate and grow as tiny plants that grow slowly taking up to two years before they flower.

In the greenhouse, my tiny summer bedding plug plants are thriving in their 6cm multi-cell trays. I am keeping nighttime temperatures at 10C and a minimum of 15C by day. The automatic roof vents are working very well if a bit slow to react to the sudden drop in temperature with those cold April showers.

Last year I sowed my Okra (Ladies Fingers or Bindi) in early March, it was too cold and I lost all of them; this year I sowed them in early April with a minimum temperature of 18C. As soon as they germinated I took them off the bottom heat and under my growlight for 14 hours a day. They are doing well now and – fingers crossed – I will have some for sale in pots at the THS Plant Sale on Saturday 13th May!

My Dahlias are growing strongly in pots and have joined the Sweet Peas and Sunflowers outside now; keeping them in the greenhouse will result in too much soft growth that makes them very vulnerable to wind damage.

This year I am trying Suttons (THS members get big discounts on Suttons seeds and plants!) grafted Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Aubergines and Sweet Peppers – delivery will be this month fingers crossed!!



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