A weird start to the growing season – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

It has been two to three weeks since I planted out (around about 22nd May) and I’m really noticing how slowly things are taking off this season. It’s strange to witness.

Firstly, the ground has been so dry. I know there is plenty of moisture deep down (there must be!) because of all the rain we had in early spring. It was relentless for weeks. We just had rain and more rain. So it is only the surface of the soil that is so dry. Unfortunately it has reached the point, in spite of mulching, of being so dry that the water runs off easily when I’m watering in the mornings as I’m growing on a slope. This can make it hard to get the water to the roots of the plants where it is most needed and to help combat this, I sometimes scoop a puddle shape in the soil around the base of plants so that the water can collect there and soak in rather than rolling downhill.

With the dry soil, a few of my plug plants have struggled to get their roots down. They’re not dying, but they’re not thriving either. I’m seeing it in slight discolouration in the leaves – my root veggies in particular. The parsnips all seem to have sacrificed a leaf or two – this is something I learnt from Charles Dowding, who is like the guru of No Dig gardening when I did a course with him one year, that plants can sacrifice older leaves by robbing them of precious water when times are hard. It’s interesting to see it happening. On nearly all my parsnip plants there are one or two older leaves that are totally shrivelled and dry, whilst the newer growth is coming through lovely and vibrant green. It’s not unusual for the older leaves to go this way, but seeing it at this very early stage is new to me.

I’m hesitant to get too involved with watering, so I am being a little sparse with it. If I had more water reserves (every year I reprimand myself for not installing water butts) I would be giving them more water now, but I know the plants well enough by now to know what I can get away with. Probably if you’re newer to growing, I wouldn’t take the risk and would be watering religiously every other day at the moment, just until the plants get established.

Secondly (sorry, I’ve only made it as far as my second point thus far!) the wind chill is really nippy. I’m actually sitting indoors with a hot water bottle as I type because the house is so cold. In June. And it’s cold for the plants too, and the soil is not as warm as normal. This is giving some of my pea plants a slightly pink hue, and my lupin flowers which I am growing from Rocket Gardens’ plugs. I’m sure that the moment the temperatures rise a bit, they’ll turn a glorious green and will flourish, but for now they are taking it slow and steady and showing me their distress in their pinky purple tinge.

Thirdly, and I can’t elaborate too much on this point because I don’t know the ins and outs of it all, I am meeting so many new insects that I swear I have never seen before. Is anyone else finding this? I can only assume that it is to do with the changing temperatures and weather conditions, that some potentially less commonly seen insects (in my neck of the woods) are thriving, whilst some others that I’d be expecting to see lots of at this time of year seem to have dropped in numbers or not come out to play yet. I’d have expected flea beetles to be all over my brassicas by now, but (and these will be famous last words) so far no sign of them. Perhaps it is too cold.

I find it all interesting, and important, to engage with the garden like this, to really notice what’s happening. For me, that’s something that has developed over the years. I first started out 9 or 10 years ago, and it took several years before I started to feel very in tune with the patterns of the seasons and of my particular plot. It has changed the most in the past two to three years, and become far less predictable. I will keep watching….!