Lettuce after two picks so far

May mid month, no warmth! but leafy vegetables are growing well, tips for new plantings and covers

In gardening one is often comparing the weather and conditions with those of the year before. So far, spring 2021 has been diametrically different to 2020!

For those of you who started last year, you were blessed with lovely growing weather (in lots of north-west Europe at least), as long as you had access to some water. This spring has been considerably more difficult. Please don’t be discouraged if you are just starting out this year, we are because growth is unusually slow.

Ah Homeacres I feel confident that the last frost has happened, when it was -2.4 C on the 7th May. Night-time temperatures are now 4 to 8 C, 40s Fahrenheit, and daytime is more the issue, with a lack of warmth. Most days are 13-15C, high fifties F and no more. In these temperatures, and often wind as well, I recommend you cover new outdoor plantings of warmth-demanding plants with a fleece cover, just for the first week to help them settle. This includes courgette, squash, sweetcorn and (soon) summer beans. We even covered celery this week.

Comparing covers

On the 29th March, we planted two beds with broccoli Belstar F1, sown five weeks earlier.

  • One bed had a cover of cotton muslin, and one bed had the usual 30gsm fleece cover.

Both beds saw frost damage to young leaves where they were touching the covers, in the first week of April when night temperatures were -5 C/23 F. This prompted me to put wire hoops to support the covers, which I don’t normally do because of wind. The weather was not windy at least!

We removed the covers just before last frost, since these plants are frost hardy. Now we can see the difference in growth, between the two beds, and smaller plants which were under the muslin. It is an ecological alternative to fleece, and more expensive. More details in this recent video about covers.

Small garden

Growth is slow but steady. Once again I would not have been without covers this spring. For example look at the reasonable growth on onions and broccoli, which have been under fleece until today!

They can grow fine in current temperatures, albeit more slowly than usual. The wind is perhaps their main impediment.

Overwintered vegetables

In a slow spring, the difference really stands out between new plantings, and those made last summer or autumn. Without the latter, it would be a very hungry gap!

The cool weather has actually improved the period of cropping by broccoli plants, which are still producing lovely shoots a full six weeks after starting. Lower temperatures mean there is less tendency to convert buds to flowers, which would then have woody stalks.

A big loser so far is asparagus. I don’t remember when it was such a slow start, with hardly anything so far from my two beds of 9 m/28 ft length.


This is high season for harvesting spinach, but not for sowing or transplanting it. If you managed to sow it under cover between mid-February and mid-March, you will be harvesting lovely leaves now. Likewise if you sowed it last August.

Make a note in your diary or calendar for this August to come, and have seeds ready.


There is still time to plant potatoes. You have lost only a little growing time, because of cool weather so far. We did a main planting in the new area on 6th May.

We planted them through polythene which is to reduce growth of bind weed, and we made slits in the black plastic with a trowel, vertically downwards to make a slit also in the ground/compost. Then we pop in the seed potato while holding the slit open with the trowel. It’s quick. See the latest video for new area and bindweed!

Most of my potatoes which emerged already have some burning of leaves where frost caught them. Some we earthed up with compost and some were under fleece, which helped at least.

Leaf lettuce

Growth has been steady if not spectacular, and I am keeping covers on the beds for now because we need the extra growth which that enables., in current weather

We are thorough when picking, to remove any diseased leaves, slugs and the few weeds. This results in very clean plants, less slug damage and quicker picking the next time. Plants should carry on cropping for another eight weeks or so, with the next sowing in early June.

Plantings under cover

Now is the time! By the end of May, all being well you will have transplanted tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, aubergines, peppers, chilies and perhaps a loofah!

See this video for how you can put a string in the planting hole, under the root ball. Plant roots then hold the string in place and it’s one less thing to tie, you just need to tie to a support at the top.

At Homeacres, all my warmth demanding and frost sensitive plants are still in the greenhouse, see video here. Soon they will be going either to plant in polytunnel/greenhouse, or a few outside under fleece, without hardening off.

New polytunnel

Another gem from First Tunnels.


All being well, we have some bees arriving soon. This prompted Kate and Briony to grow some wildflowers for them. There are many already in the pasture and hedges, and these will be a nice addition.

The first thing we did was to cover the ground with polythene, to weaken the growth of grass and weeds, before sowing on 7th May, just before some welcome rain!


97 thoughts on “May mid month, no warmth! but leafy vegetables are growing well, tips for new plantings and covers

  1. Hi Charles, thank you very much for your invaluable No-Dig system and the encouragement you offer. When the rain came down, my garlic (planted Octo 22) bolted! They shouldn’t do that until July. A neighbour said I should decapitate the buds, which I did. But why has this happened and what’s the best way forward? Many, many thanks. Clare

    1. Hi Clare,
      No worries! They are clearly of the hardneck type, which make flower stems at this time of year, irrespective of weather.
      Your neighbour was correct, and you can eat them. Meanwhile the garlic continue to grow and you harvest them a little later than softneck types, in early July.

      1. Great! I can relax, I will still get bulbs. Wonderful.
        I have no idea what type they are, I simply planted cloves from Sainsbury’s! So, taking out the flower heads is what I should generally do if they bolt this early?
        Thank you very much for all your advice. I’m very grateful. My garden is really thriving. I’ve the leeks, got Brussels sprouts, kale and savoys almost ready to be planted. Celery is good but celeriac are stubbornly tiny! Potato main crop are late. And the foraging blackbirds do so insist on making a bloody mess of everything!!! But all good!
        And so interesting what you say about the Mini ice age. Makes a lot of sense! Thank you again. Clare

  2. Bad year for broad beans. I’ve done everything right: Aquadulce sown in October, planted out in November. Nice size by March then April frosts knocked them back heavily and even took out a few plants. Now the damp (sodden?) May has brought chocolate spot. As you say, though, the lettuces are loving it. I think my Grenoble Red are trying to heart – is that normal? None of the other varieties seem so disposed. It’s not a problem as I’ve got plenty of others, just curious.

    1. Yes the autumn sown beans were/are the worst I have ever known, maddening, but ones we sold in January look good.

      Grenoble Reded lettuce do make hearts and I would leave one to rise to flower and give you some seeds

  3. Hi Charles,
    I have access to as much used horse bedding as I want. I realise this takes a while to break down in a compost heap, but would you recommend using it for pathways in between my beds as opposed to standard wood chip ? Also , could it be used as a layer , on top of cardboard with compost on top to form a bed ?
    Many thanks

    1. hi Dave, and this is a problem with words because you don’t see what the bedding material is, or how much horse poo it contains, so I cannot give advice. For example it could be a wood shavings, or straw and it may be dry, wet with urine and full of horse poo. Presumably also you mean it is fresh from the stables.

      1. Sure I understand, yes, it’s fresh from the stables, no poo , just the soaked / partially soaked shavings. No straw, I also have access to loads of that, ( old sheep bedding! ) was going to shred that and either compost it or use as a bed first layer on top of pre wetted cardboard, then compost on top ?
        Your advice is very much appreciated!

        1. Hi Dave, I would not use the wood shavings because they take a very long time to break down, from being kiln dried. The sheep bedding sounds much better and make sure it is all moist

          1. Ok great, I’ll do just that.
            Many thanks for your replies , I appreciate your a busy chap !

  4. Hi Charles,

    Really enjoyed your May update as always and the reassurance and ideas you give and share at a time when all our planting is a month or so behind it seems. Thank you for drawing attention to and writing about the Grand Solar Minimum. So many won’t go there even though it looms over us all and recent years have been signalling this occurring. The narraitve focuses solely on warming when the opposite is happening. Thank you Charles! I went to a talk by Piers Corbyn, the astrophysicist and metreologist regarding the cycles of our sun and this has happened many times over with similar patterns and more extreme weather, such as the ice fairs on the frozen Thames in the 1600s.

      1. Sorry I meant Piers Corbyn, but Piers Morgan also attempts to obfuscate the climate breakdown cause issue preventing people from making informed choices based entirely on the settled science.

    1. The Grand Solar Minimum is a myth used by climate breakdown sceptics like Piers Morgan.

      The science is absolutely settled now: the strange weather events we now experience are due to man-made climate change brought about by humanity’s overuse of fossil fuels. It’s time to put this damaging climate breakdown denial nonsense to bed and those who attempt to distract humanity from taking action to severely restrict fossil fuel use in their place!

  5. Hi Charles
    I only discovered your website and videos after putting a lot of ground work into an overgrown veg patch lots of plantain creeping buttercup fat hen and docks. I had constructed raised beds and filled with green waste compost with a layer of worm rich horse manure on the bottom over the top of cardboard. Keen to start I bought some instant plug plants and have a wide variation on growth everything has been under fleece or thermacrop. I have lettuce that has hardly grown at all, three have rotted out any green ones have yellowing to outer leaves. Cauliflower from the same tray vary from really nice looking strong plants maybe 18inches high to others that have barely made any growth in The same bed two rows of carrot that have germinated well but not as yet putting much growth on with reddish tinging to first true leaves. In another bed Kohl rabbi with purplish tinging to outer leaves. The compost has quite a lot of woody material in it and I also have cup like fungi in several beds these have followed smaller grey brown mushrooms. So my question is will this all settle down and growth catch up due to weather we are right at sea level in an estuarine creek in Cornwall and had frost later than yourself. Or is it more to do with the over freshness of the compost ? Plan to harvest plenty of seaweed for the winter is it best to let this purge from salt naturally or am I better to wash before applying?

    1. Hello Ian, yes it sounds like the compost was too fresh. The purple and red tinges to leaves are a sign of nutrient deficiency, of a temporary nature, while the composting process is using nutrients to finish.
      Those fungi are a good sign of healthy decomposition, and show that there is plenty of wood in the compost!
      Also some plants looking pale even purple is due to the cold conditions, so you have had difficulties all round, and things will now improve!

  6. Dear Charles, I converted to no-dig sometime in June of last year and have been following your videos and blog since that time, and by the end of last summer my garden “looked beautifully” (words of my neighbor not mine). I have a question though and hope you will be so kind to answer it. I grew some tomato plants from seeds, but I took them out too early and some of them are not doing well. But I have plenty of self-sown plants on my beds from last year fallen fruits. Is there any true in not using these self-sown plants? I read somewhere that self-sown plants from year before should be remove. I appreciated your comment on that. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom with us.

  7. Hi Charles,
    I have 6 tomato plants I have grown from seed & have kept them in a poly tunnel. 2 of the plants have curled up leaves but the other 4 are fine. any advice on how to save the healthy plants please & how this could have happened to 2 plants? thanks

    1. Needs more detail – all leaves curled, or just new ones, discolouration, in pots or soil etc?

      1. all leaves have curled & almost closed up. soil looks ok & all plants have had the same amount of watering but 4 look ok & 2 have curled up leaves. I fed them some sterilised egg shells about 4 weeks ago but that was all plants again. thank you

        1. I am new also but all I can think of from your description is aminopyralid? Please check by watching videos about it

        2. You have many clues there and need to spot the differences between how are you have grown the four compare to the two. Different compost would be the main one but there may be other factors which only you can see

          1. Hi William. Are the leaves rolled up along their length? Curled/rolled (but otherwise healthy) tomato leaves may occur when there is a big difference between day and night temperatures and is not a problem. I’ve had this with outdoor tomatoes. Why only 2 are affected though? – are they all the same variety?

  8. Hi Charles, back inMarch I put down cardboard and covered it with compost to extend my current small growing patch over a small part of the lawn. I have created a small cardboard covered path around it. I have left it to its own devices. Weeds are not the problem. But the new area is becoming covered in large, brown, frilly fungus. This is also invading the lawn edge. Should I be worried? I’m in the Midlands region of UK. Thanks for your help.

    1. That sounds wonderful Linder. The fungus is some kind of secondary or tertiary decomposer which is working on the woody part of your compost, and helping it to break down some more. All very normal!

  9. Buying a 100m roll of 30gsm fleece has been the best investment for this season! I have had almost everything under fleece at some point which has made all the difference in how things have grown!
    Many plants are still under fleece now to keep them growing well, although I’m starting to need to remove it because the plants are outgrowing the fleece.

    The proof is in my spinach, which is interplanted between my kale (planted late so some of which is still producing). The spinach has barely grown since being planted late March, because it hasn’t been under fleece due to being between my kale!

  10. Thankyou for all of your helpful posts and videos. I have a rather large garden allotment and was hoping you might be able to help me. This is a question about Peas; my peas have mottled white lines, not circles and I was wondering if this was normal for pea shoots as I have never grown them before. I have peas for shoots and peas for peas and they both look the same with mottled effect but are in different areas.

    1. Thanks Rosa.
      Many pea leaves have patterns on them of silvery grey.
      I am sure your pea plants are healthy! Some courgettes have a similar patterns and it’s normal, healthy.

  11. Hi Charles, potting on your leeks must be quite a job. What size do you pot on to?
    If I have space, can I plant some of mine, still a bit spindly but good roots in CD60, direct into ground now?

    1. Yes of course you can plant them now. The putting on I refer to is when space is not clear, for example between potatoes there is no room at all until harvest.
      7cm pots

  12. Hello, Charles…

    Any chance your CD60’s will be available soon to those of us in the US via Amazon or other means?

    Just have to share how thankful I am that I discovered your website and YouTube channel this past year. My garden has been transformed and my plants are looking sensational. How generous you are with your knowledge!! My family will be eating well thanks to you!

    Much appreciated!

  13. Hi Charles ,
    The broccoli I planted out here in Cornwall beginning of April , fleeced over to protect from the many unusual frosts we had , appeared to have survived really well … but now in mid-May , having just covered with a butterfly netting cage , they are all starting to bolt , shooting up tall spindly yellow flowers …
    Could this be due to the cold/dry April ? … and can they be saved ? or is it best to just pull them and replant ?
    Best regards,

    1. Sorry to see this Bob and I suspect the variety – not a true calabrese, which one? Maybe kaibroc or is open pollinated

  14. Hi Charles

    I was wondering how your e overwintering onions are my Senshu that I planted (multisown) last Autumn were looking really good but recently they have all started to bolt. I am thinking it was the dry and cold April that has done them in, as May has been wet and mild everything else is growing well

    1. I do not grow Senshyu, only spring onions White Lisbon & Lilia for sale & eatingh as salad onions.
      If sown before 25th August, bolting is likely now. Otherwise is odd – maybe mild March then cold April = summer followed by winter

      1. Thanks Charles I am sure I sowed them in September but will check that, I guess it is the weird weather you mention but my spring onions sown in September are looking fab now and are very popular to customers and restaurants and are selling quickly

        1. Nice to hear and what are you selling a bunch of spring onions for?
          Wholesale here I cannot get higher than 70p for 6 medium or 4 large ones, peeled and washed.

  15. Hi Charles
    As ever learning enormous amounts from your posts.

    I have a few questions if that’s ok:

    I covered a large area (for new beds) with black polythene over the winter. I am almost out of room in our existing veg garden and would like to remove the polythene in a week or so to start using these beds. Do you think this will have been long enough to kill the grass (it was mainly grass, celandine, dandelion etc)? Don’t want to take them off to early. I’ve peeked in places and don’t see much evidence of life but don’t want to find the grass returns.

    I then need to create the beds with compost – I’ve got a large amount of homemade compost from garden waste but it’s not fully decomposed. I also have horse manure collected in the autumn which is mostly decomposed but with a bit of straw still visible (done the pyralid test and all fine). Are either/both ok to use given they are not fully decomposed ? I plan to plant mainly squashes, courgettes, sweet corn and possibly beans abd brassicas there.

    Thanks so much

    1. Yes Venetia, I would remove the polythene now and add either or both of those composts, good luck

  16. Just planting maincrop potatoes here in the frozen north (Moray). Charlotte which I planted a few weeks ago are just starting to emerge. Everything is extremely slow here this spring. I’m just getting started as a proper veg grower so don’t have good year-on-year records, but I noticed that the azaleas are still not out, whereas last year they were in full bloom by 1 May. I didn’t sow spinach early as it was still too cold in the unheated greenhouse so have some in modules now. I know you say it’s too late to plant it out, but given how cold it still is I might as well give it a go! I’m finding that for autumn sown stuff that August is too late here – seedlings just don’t pull away enough to get established given the lower light levels by that time. Last year’s 8 August sowings just remained as mini plants all winter and then burst into mini flowers in spring! Ah the north!

    1. Oh my that sounds difficult for you Linda.
      I recommend you look at improving soil energy and warmth, through biodynamics and solar dowsing on the longest day. Look up Tabraham on the Internet

    2. I feel your pain. We are in Aberdeenshire and it’s currently 9’C here at lunchtime. I’m a bit new to all this too but I have used 30 g fleece over all the beds. So the veg plot looks like a collection of shrouds but I have been impressed by how plants are growing under it considering this weather. I thought it would be a bit of a faff (now turning back fleece during the daytime) which it is but I think it’s definitely worth it. Also CD advised during a visit to Inverness for ‘us lot’ to modify his sowing dates ie 2 weeks earlier after mid July and 4 weeks earlier by mid September. I wonder if anyone has comments to make on this.

  17. Going to plant my courgettes and squashes on the allotment, initially with cover as you suggest, as still not that warm (Norfolk). I have the choice of fleece or thermacrop. Any advice and would you hoop or lay on top? And thanks again for all your guidance.

    1. Fleece is warmer but either will help.
      Thermacrop is heavier and best with hoops, so if a windy site, I would use fleece directly on top

  18. Hi Charles, a couple of questions which I hope you can answer. Is it a myth about not growing Cucumbers and tomatoes in the same green house? I;m talking a 6×8 ft g/h. I heard it was something to do with humidity levels.
    My matador spinach, sown mid March planted out in April under fleece is flowering, can I still grow on by picking out the flower stalks.? My lettuce plants for leaves are doing well and my radish, a mixed variety are producing sweet flavoured radish about the size of small turnips. I’m delighted!

    Interesting thoughts about the solar effects! it would help to combat greenhouse heating effect but I guess we would suffer with lower light levels and day time temperatures.

    I havent sown toms or cucumbers yet so I guess I would be better off buying, hopefully I should be ok with zucchini sowing. Thank you for your inspirational pods I have mentioned you to several of my friends now.

    Best wishes Peter

    1. Cheers Peter and yes it’s a myth, keep the air dry for both.
      Matador may be a flowery variety! My Missouri are still full of leaves.
      Good luck

  19. Charles,
    who needs Netflix when we’ve got your videos! Many thanks for your invaluable advice, especially in this strange spring. I was much comforted to hear that your asparagus is not performing either!

      1. I’ve noticed also that my rhubarb is very reluctant to appear. Only 2 small leaves so far!! However other peoples rhubarbs are looking lush and healthy so it might be just mine!

        1. Sorry to hear that Danielle, hope it’s not weedkiller from manure or compost, see if other plants are affected.
          Or a super late variety!

  20. Thanks again for your monthly updates-I eagerly await them, learning something every month! Looking much further forward, last year as always, despite netting my brassicas get eaten by cabbage white caterpillars. I have tried to source Bacillus Thurigensis but failed over the last couple of years. Where do you get your supply from? I garden on an allotment where we get clouds of cabbage whites cum July/August every year. I am in Weymouth Dorset. What a cold spring! We rarely get more than a hand full of frosts most year-lucky us! Not 2021! Seedlings have suffered- seeing yours I now know the biscuit coloured leaves were not me doing wrong just Jack Frosts unwelcome visit!

    1. Well done Jean.
      Yes it’s always made difficult for us to buy this harmless substance. In contrast anybody can purchase lethal poisons to kill weeds.
      If you can find a product called Bacillus, which is to kill caterpillars on box hedges, that works for vegetables to kill their caterpillars. There is a link on my links page. But it may not be available always.

  21. Hello Charles,
    An allotment holder near my plot, drew my attention to a grass -like weed in his polytunnel. He had tried and tried to dig it out with no success. It has now appeared in my plot. I weed by hand and when I pull it, at the root end, there is a seed that looks like barley. Another holder said it could have come from his bird feeder. I’m not so sure, because when I pull the ‘grass’ there are clumps of seeds. Any ideas? The clumps are at most 1inch high when I pull them.

    1. It sounds like nothing I know Michael, and maybe is an import. It also sounds like you need to remove it all carefully with a trowel, which must be possible.

  22. Hi Charles,
    Would you recommend using the CD60 trays for French drawf beans? I’m also curious to know what stage (if any) you are in with growing runner beans? I am trying Czar this year (after seeing your video) and would be grateful for any sowing or transplanting tips!

    1. CD60’s work for dwarf French beans, as long as you transplant them small.
      I am just sowing runner beans now, for transplanting outside at the end of May, and I’m not in any rush this year! I use 40L modules.

      1. Planted my beans in modules in the propagator too Charles. (Borlotti for dry beans, Dwarf French beans and Runner Beans. Only 13 degree in the greenhouse today and about 10 degrees outside. What a start to ‘summer’!

  23. Thank you for another informative post. Notes in the morning!!! Noticed that you have French beans ready but haven’t sown mine yet and wondered if I have missed a date in your calendar😟. Great radishes and lettuce but beetroot look unhappy… discovered my tortoise loves radish leaves …

      1. Thank you… I was getting worried 😔I can sleep well .. but noted how early you are up 😳

  24. It’s been that cold I lost some of my overwintered Aquadulce – what’s that all about? Spinach is great at the moment, both indoors and out. Overwintered spring onions are also multitudinous, fat, and very oniony. Second pick of lettuce – some good leaves but much slower to regenerate than last year – Freckles is doing best of the bunch. I planted out some courgettes yesterday but didn’t fleece – partly because I tend to dot them around the plot where there is space – I might have to think up a work-around. I’m still lairy of planting out the sweetcorn as last year the fleece battered it nearly as much as the frost and the wind. I think I’ll keep them tucked up in the cold frame a bit longer. Peas are going well as I have them under mesh, do you keep yours netted or does there come a point when they are no longer prey to rabbits etc?

    1. Well done, and my peas are now free to air, too many & too large for significant rabbit damage

      1. Hi Charles,
        I planted my Alderman Peas along an A Frame support that runs North/South. The peas on the East facing side are growing well if slowly, but there is a real difference in the rate of growth to the peas on the West facing side which seem to be struggling somewhat. They are growing on ground prepared in exactly the same way except that I renewed the bark on the path nearest to the West side with freshly chipped branches. Could this be the problem? The Peas aren’t short of light and none of them are very tall as yet due to the cold. I wish now I had fleeced them and not put the supports inn place till later, but expected the weather to be somewhat warmer.

        1. Possibly that new chip could be taking a few nutrients or reflecting warmth – but in a normal year, I think you would barely notice it. Peas actually prefer it not too hot, but this year has been cold even for them, so far

          1. Thanks Charles. I have left my reply until now so that I can see what happened. Well the peas look almost like they were sown weeks apart but they are growling SLOWLY! Today we have gusts of wind between 50 – 60 mph and they are hanging on to the netting on my A Frame support. Whatever the reason was it may work to my advantage and give me harvests of peas at two different times. As an aside, I wanted to tell you that my plum tree has died too. Nothing to do with compost mulch as I didn’t put any on. I think despite me watering through the extremely hot dry summer, the amount may have been insufficient. Pretty sure it is dead as scraped branch shows nothing but dry and brown but I am going to leave it in for a while just in case. Feeling very sad if it is lost.

          2. Plum death could be from pruning in winter if you did that.
            Otherwise I am unsure!

  25. Love the new polytunnel! Will the skirt be buried, or is it fastened differently please? Very cold and windy still here in mid France too. My house is full of squash plants and aubergine under grow lights, my tomatoes are in the polytunnel with fleece as it’s still really cold, but my lettuce, kale and chard are all growing in leaps and bounds outside!

  26. You have suggested that the “Grand Solar Minimum” maybe having some affect but looking through the peer-reviewed research, physics, and maths all tell us that a grand solar minimum would have no more than a 0.3°C cooling effect. Given we already have 1.2 deg C warming this isn’t going to make much difference. Bear in mind the all of these effects are averages over the whole planet and some are experience much more warming e.g. Artic and other areas will cool.

    1. Yes sure Peter, but if we lose Gulf Stream some of the time, that makes a huge difference.
      Plus in that article they discuss the diminution of solar cosmic rays, which allow more rays from the rest of the universe which, according to them at least, results in more high cloud, resulting in even more diminution of sunlight level.
      There are so many variables and nobody knows for sure, but I am amazed at the drop in temperature over the last six weeks.

      1. Charles, I wasn’t keeping detailed records in 2013 and I wasn’t following your blog at that time, but I do remember it was a really cold and miserable spring, so much so that I even planted out some Picasso potatoes on June 9th (and I did get a harvest, too!)

        Is 2021 really the coldest you’ve seen down in Somerset for a long time, or is it just that sort of once in a decade anomaly that tends to crop up in English weather??

        1. It’s a good question and 2013 was remarkably cold in March 3.9C, then cold in April 7.7C, cool in May 9.9C followed by a hot, hot summer.
          2021 has seen an average March 6.7, cold April 6.7 and cool May so far 8.7.
          This year, the cold started on 2nd April, just at the time when growth normally kicks off. Plus there was the remarkable run of frosts, which have made a huge difference in stunting growth. So this is a remarkable spring, if not unprecedented.
          My worry is that the weather pattern of anticyclone over Greenland shows no sign of shifting, which means the cold northerly flow continues. I only hope not for the whole summer.

          1. It does look like being the coolest April/May combined since 1941, based on the CET data set, definitely since 1951. Whether May will end up below 10C is moot, with a few warmer days at month’s end likely to tilt things just above.

            Looking like the coolest May since 1996.

  27. One of the odder experiences I’ve had in gardening came yesterday down at the allotment, when I noticed my first maincrop potato through (sown 15th April) before two of my Early Potatoes have emerged (sown 19th March). It’s only in the past 6 days that the vast majority of my early potatoes emerged (a week ago 6/24, yesterday 22/24).

    The biggest growth check I am seeing is with broad beans, although it has to be said that in the 2010s, they were extraordinarily precocious in their growth rates in early to mid Spring. There are plenty of flowers but the plants are only 30-50cm high, rather than the more normal 70-100cm at this time of year.

    We now seem to be getting regular ‘April Showers’ in May!

    1. Hi Rhys I agree about the broad beans this year. I can’t recall such a year when they were so stunted. Hopefully we will still have some sort of crop. Conversely the lettuces under fleece, sown 12th February and planted out 15th March are better than last year. Crazy dry April and now a wet May. Natura non facit saltum. Nature never makes a leap.

      1. Kevin, Hi: yes, my lettuce this year are doing very well, and I started harvesting earlier than I’ve managed in the past (probably due to spacing them too wide and waiting for them to touch).

        For us, we had such a ridiculously wet autumn and winter that the soil was still very moist after 6 weeks of drought – the rainfall we had in October was off the charts – like 100mm+ more than any other month I’ve ever recorded, and November, December and January were all >100mm too (our annual average is around 700mm and the highest average month is usually around 75mm). Apart from watering directly sown seeds like parsnip, carrot and radish to get them to germinate, I’ve only done one major watering outside of transplantation and that was of the peas in late April.

      1. My broad beans are also less tall but are more branched than other years (same variety). Don’t know if that is the weather or because I fleeced them for the first time and the fleece has been sitting on them. Any thoughts?

        1. This year, fleece fleece will have helped a lot and brunching, also called to Lorraine with extra stones, is a sign of healthy plants and is good, unless your beans are very close together, in which case they might be a little crowded.

          1. Thanks, broad beans aren’t very close, so nice to hear some good news!
            Whereas something started on my celeriac plugs indoors 🙁, I’m guessing aphids, so not good root system when I planted them out but 🤞….

  28. Hi Charles,
    Thanks for your recent posts. Once again, most helpful.
    I too have grown leeks in your CD60 cells (several varieties for different cropping dates hopefully). They are well grown now and as i want to follow your experience of having them follow my potatoes (extra early Cassablanca which are growing well after having fleece cover removed yesterday). I have already suffered what i think is pyralid poisoning on some of my chilli and pepper plants but foolishly didn’t label which ones had used which purchased compost! I am sure i will have to pot on my leek plants. My question is would John Innes no. 2 potting on compost be ok to use. I already ave some which I know to be ‘safe’ as well as vermculite that I could open it up with. Unfortunately my home made compost is not ready to use yet but should be ready for adding prior to late summer/autumn planting of over wintering crops.

      1. Thanks Charles. About to purchase more sweet pepper seeds and chilli pepper seeds die to the pyralid poisoning. Curling leaves make me pretty sure that is what the cause of the problem. Hopefully they will catch up if i can get them in soon. May even buy some plants if my local nursery has any. Thanks for making me aware of the issue as I would be scratching my head trying to fathom what growing conditions in my greenhouse had been the cause of the losses.

        I have also ordered natural fertiliser compost from PlantGrow (soil association approved and organic). Their story and info looks to me as though I will be able to rely on the quality of their compost and it being chemical free. Do you know the company?

        1. Hi Rob, well done for continuing to be optimistic and I would buy plants rather than sow seeds, at this late stage.

          Yes I was sent some of the so-called compost by that company and I am unimpressed. It is digestate from production of methane. I sowed some broad bean seeds in it and none came up, they all rotted. Last year I had similar experience, and then it was good after six months. Like so many sellers they are not waiting long enough before selling it.

          1. Thanks for this Charles. I have received some of the ‘Natural Fertiliser’ from them. I will do a test sowing and wait to use it. I need it to supplement my own and need it mainly to add when I plant in the summer after cropping potatoes and maybe after Spinach at the end of June. do you think it would be best left in the bulk bag (I have covered it in polythene to stop it getting waterlogged) or should I dig it out and barrow it onto a new pile, thus turning it? I don’t want to slow down its decomposition.

    1. No Rachelle, it needs temperature above 10C for at least 24 hours and a large population of spores in the air. Too cold on both fronts

  29. Hello Charles,

    My Charlotte potatoes are just poking out of the soil (they appeared as if by magic the day after the hopefully ‘last frost’) but already the leeks I plant to succeed them (based on your video on rotation) are a few inches high in CD60s.

    Do you ‘pot on’ the leek clumps into say 2 inch cells if they are growing in small modules until July? I’m conscious that the roots are already getting air pruned and they are going to be in there fore the best part of 2 more months yet.

    Also my peas seem to be going selectively pale and yellow, any thoughts? They are mostly growing in the same material as the healthier looking ones so I don’t think it’s low nitrogen (though the compost mulch is newish so might be the underlying soil).


    1. Yes always I pot on leeks when following second early potatoes.
      Yellow peas could be the cold, ot compost weedkiller, but not the latter if other peas are ok in same compost

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