May 2018: On the unpredictability of the weather

If like me, you are currently holed up indoors, watching the wind blow horse chestnut flowers off the trees while the rain is lashing out,  then you might also be wondering ‘ what is going on with the weather?’

I wish I had an answer for that, but I believe that a mix of man made factors (that’s climate change), and natural cycles is making our seasons shift (spring starts later, summer ends later), temperatures are more extreme and the transition between season... well...let’s say more unpredictable.

Two weeks ago the thermometer in the Skip Garden reached 28. That’s mid-of-the summer temperature, and most definitely unusual for April. But after the long and particularly cold winter, that’s exactly what plants were waiting for: a sign that they could just go ahead and unleash a soft tornado of new leaves and flowers. And indeed they have: our tulips were out in a blink, at the same time as some of our daffodils. Most fruit trees flowered en masses. Our bees - who suffered quite a loss due to the very cold weather this winter- finally came out to feast on fresh nectar. My allergic friends are surgically attached to their tissues: pollen level have reached the roof as everything- from trees to grass- have flowered very quickly and at the same time. It would have been easy to transplant tomatoes and courgette outdoors in a heat induced episode of garden excitement. But we held off, and we did well as indeed look at the weather now!

This last few weeks many people have asked ‘ what do I do now with my garden?’ so here are my advice, and how we practise this in the Skip Garden:

Keep an eye on your weather app, and don’t forget that any protection (whether polytunnel, greenhouse or cloches) will go back to ambient temperature at night. So if it is 2 degrees at night, that’s what your greenhouse plants will experience. Put thermometer that stores lowest and highest temperature in your polytunnel/ greenhouse to get a sense of what is going on there while you’re not looking. Our polyskip gets to 54 degrees C, hotter than the death valley and perfect for sweet potatoes.

You can transplant HALF of your fruits (tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and squash - any vegetables that has seeds in) in a glasshouse or a polytunnel if they are a decent size (4-6 true leaves). We have been donated a bunch of gorgeous tomatoes that we have transplanted in our polytunnel a couple of weeks ago and they are doing fine.

Keep the other half of your fruits in a temperature controlled area, and transplant them out around St Sophie day- May 25, which is the date of the last possible frost. Of course if it’s looking great the week before, go ahead. Gardening isn’t a perfect science.

 Last year's tomatoes, we are hoping this year's will grow as juicy and sweet.!

Last year's tomatoes, we are hoping this year's will grow as juicy and sweet.!

If you haven't sown anything yet, start now, it’s not too late! Don’t forget that squashes germinate well and you only need a couple of squash plants, unless you are a real fan of courgettes. You can also buy some seedlings from gardening friends, your local community garden, or if everything fail a garden centre. Please avoid F1 cultivar though. Peas, beans, root veg, salads and most cabbages can be sown now.

I can’t tell you why the weather is so unpredictable, but I can tell you that plants want to grow and live on. So be patient, hold on a little longer, and soon you will be able to finally transplant your seedlings outside and bath into proper spring sun.