Sometimes a leap of faith can reap rewards

May can be such an awkward month for gardeners, with the ever-present threat of frost, destructive winds suddenly springing up and young plants outstaying their welcome in the greenhouse.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 25 May, 2019, 16:08
The runner beans have been planted and, two weeks on, are starting to climb the canes. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

All we want is an opportunity to get on with the outdoor planting.

Such situations demand the leap of faith this fellow took mid-month when the weather forecast predicted overnight frost.

The supporting runner bean wigwams had been erected for a fortnight and I’d played the waiting game as the plants destined to join them continued growing in the so-called cold greenhouse.

The problem is this structure has no artificial heating in February and March when early seedlings need warmth to survive so we improvise in offering fleece protection, keeping watering to a minimum and ventilating for a short midday period only.

But April and May bring a sea change with the natural solar effect, which can send the temperature under glass soaring in advance of noon. Such a situation does not encourage sturdy growth in plants and can be avoided by opening the door and vents as the sun gets up, and closing late afternoon to store potential overnight warmth.

There is an instinctive feel for such weather situations that comes from gardening and living in the countryside. A sensitivity to changes in temperature, humidity and cloud formations perhaps, but enough to make this fellow take a slight risk, ignore the forecast and plant those runner beans.

As it happened the frost failed to materialise and two weeks on, they’ve started climbing the canes like champions. This is not surprising given they’re F1 hybrids, have red and white flowers, and the varietal name ‘Saint George’.

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A dozen plants of each are set around two cane wigwams, sited at opposite corners of a raised, island vegetable bed.

They are divided by a row of six ‘Yolanda’ courgettes, planted at the same time, in a straight line between the remaining opposite corners.

Twenty curled leaf parsley plants around the periphery completed planting for the moment, but I have noted four remaining spaces that could take a herb each.

The bed covers little over four square metres, is accessible from all sides, in all weathers, and has colour, plus structure, that is pleasing to this gardener’s eyes.

Nine such beds exist in the garden and this allows us to operate a crop rotation system in order to avoid the build-up of a disease relating to one plant type.

With six of these planted, only three remain, so we’re making progress.