What Happened In May At The Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground

Hard to believe it’s almost June already, time does seem to fly at this time of the year!  Frosts should be at an end now so there’ll be nothing holding us back from filling the trial field with all the more tender young plants from the polytunnel.

Over the last few weeks we’ve finalised the planting plan and we now have a much clearer idea of what will be going where and how much space we’ll have for each trial which helps with putting together the list of items to include.  It’s still a bit flexible of course as things can change on a day to day basis and the plan will continue to evolve as we get through the next month.

One important job completed over the last week was to put together the tubs and troughs to decorate our stand at the Chelsea Flower Show.  It was great to see them go off.

Trial Ground – Carrots

The first signs of green growth are now appearing everywhere out on the trial field, the carrots and parsnips we sowed in April are well up, helped by the first decent rains we had for weeks – 13.8 mm on one day last week certainly broke the dry spell we had all through April.  The sweet peas too are now showing themselves and we’re checking daily to see if there are any lines that need a re-sow.

Trial Ground – Hardy Annuals

The direct sown annuals were sown a couple of weeks ago, with the ground so dry we had to water for a couple of days prior to the sowing date to give them a good start, but we were saved further watering by the perfectly timed onset of the rains.  Just occasionally it seems that nature is on our side!  The green shoots of many lines are already poking up through the soil and with the warm weather predicted this week we’ll expect them to romp away from now on.

Brian always delays the sowing of some species of hardy annual, the eschscholzias and calendulas in particular, as they are so fast growing that they would be past their best by our big open day in August so they are due to go in over the next couple of weeks.

We’ve now planted out the exhibition onions that were started indoors earlier in the year, they need some of our best land to make sure we see the biggest and best bulbs later in the summer.  They’re sharing a patch with a trial of Alstroemeria plants which we’re reviewing for future introduction.  Some of these plants are already showing buds so we’re looking forward to a great show over the summer.

Plants sown indoors for the half hardy annual and first year flowering trials have now been moved outside onto the mypex covered area.  Brian has kept some fleece on hand just in case we get late frosts, it would be a disaster if we were caught out by a cold snap at this point with over 500 trays of young plants at stake!

Trial Ground – Polytunnel

The polytunnel is now in full production, sunflowers, sweet corn and annual climbing flowers are all happily growing away in the protected conditions ready for planting out later.  With the big temperature rises forecast for the end of this week and over the bank holiday we need to get as much as possible outside in the open or they will start to suffer from the excessive heat.

Next it will be time to plant up the hanging baskets, sow the cucumbers and melons and prepare the sugar snap peas, runner and French beans ready for sowing.  We’ll start off the runners indoors but the French beans and sugar snap peas will be sown directly into the ground outside.  The brassicas sown earlier in the month now need pricking out into separate pots.  Unfortunately, the welcome rain also brings the dreaded weeds – they love these conditions as much as our crops – so it’ll be out with the hoes to keep on top of them, especially around the newly germinated rows of carrots, parsnips and direct sown hardy annuals.

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