Peas growing under chicken wire

Week eighteen

Things you can do this week
Only buy bedding plants now if you are prepared to look after them and harden them off yourself for the next couple of weeks. Given some temporary protection tomato plants can be planted out in a warm sheltered position. When the lilacs are in bloom start sowing dwarf French beans. Sow some quick maturing varieties (that are sold for late sowing) now and keep the seed to sow late next year. Find some space to plant the first sprouts. Plant them three feet apart, inter cropping with a quick growing lettuce or cabbage which will have been cropped before the sprouts grow to fill the space.

Links to weeks throughout the year
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Gardening diary week 18 beekeeping blog

Diary week eighteen April 30th - May 6th

Sow runner beans in ground that has been previously heavily manured after adding a dusting of super phosphate of lime to the soil.


30th April. My Hurst Greenshaft peas are growing away now and are well protected from the pigeons under chicken wire.


May 6th 2008 The last few days have been hot and sunny. Summer has arrived!

With some luck the earliest of the new virgin queen bees will have made their maiden flight(s) by now and are back in their hives and starting to lay eggs - but it is still too soon to check

I am behind schedule as usual and today planted out some Wilja seed potatoes where the maincrop leeks were. Any leeks still left were dug in for the potatoes to feed on.

I took a moment, as they were nearby, to collected up the remaining seed pods from the Aconites growing under the little apple tree. Aconite seed is small, round, yellow-ish in seed capsules like miniature pea pods joined together in a star cluster. Many of this year's seeds will have already fallen to the ground but those that I collected I have sown in a pot that is now half buried near the clump at the base of the tree ready for next year's germination.

May 1st 2008 We have had a lot of rain in the last few days but it seemed like it had finished raining for a while this evening and a hot sunny spell is on it's way.

I planted out my early leeks from a pot. I started them off indoors weeks ago. They have been outside in their pot for the last few weeks and have been heavily rained on for the last couple of days. I've planted then in a holding bed for now as they are still quite small my intention is to move them on to a final bed when the are about the thickness of a pencil.

The head gardener is complaining about my weeds and slugs again. This time her attention was focused on the area under the apple tree where I'm growing snowdrops. The snowdrops have just about disappeared now leaving only the occasional seed capsule. I collect up the seed heads as I've noticed that although the slugs don't eat the snowdrop leaves they do eat the seeds capsules. The area is getting covered in weed and grass is beginning to establish itself and it is in the grass that the slugs hang out. I raked the area over to removed the weed and pulled out some of the grass. This snowdrop patch also supports several parsnips that are growing tall and if left will flower and set seed. I can't decided what action to take next. Should I cover the whole area with a mulch of rotted muck and smother the grass or wait a while and then hoe off the grass?


May 5th 2007 We still have had no rain

Back garden

The blue abutilon LINK: Abutilon pictures The blue abutilon in the back garden has made a lot of growth in the last few years and is now a large shrub. Possibly it is too large for it's position in the garden and may well have to go soon. Fortunately it is possible to take cuttings from it and indeed the first cutting are themselves now several feet high.


May 2nd 2006. No pollen bearers. Part of my checking of the beehives is to see if the bees are taking pollen into the hives. Generally speaking if plenty of pollen is being taken into the hive on a sunny day then the odds are that everything inside the hive is pretty much OK and the queen is laying. If all the hives have bees taking pollen in but one hive just has bees going in and out carrying no pollen at all then that is likely to be a hive without a laying queen. If your records tell you that there should be a laying queen in residence it is time for an inspection. There was no sign of a queen here and no brood left to hatch out so it was important take I take some emergency action. The weather has been quite good for a week or so now so I had every expectation of finding a good frame of eggs in one of the other hives that could be put into this cottager. I removed one frame that had recently had a lot of eggs laid on it, checked it to make sure there was no queen on it, and gently brushed the worker bees back into the hive before putting it into the queenless hive. I will check the hive in one week to see if the bees have made the required queen cell.

May 1st 2006. Scraping the bottom clean. Every year I burn and scrape the hive bases as part of my hive maintenance and disease control regime. This year the cottager's front landing board is peeling and that needs to be burned off, scraped, and repainted too. I didn't' go into the hive and check it today but will soon.

Sunday 30th April 2006. Another large load of muck has been delivered to the corner of my allotment.

Saturday 29th April 2006. The asparagus is now coming through and it is time to weed the bed. The compost that I used to cover it last year must have contained a fair amount of parsley seed and some kind of brassica seed (probably purple sprouting) as there are seedlings all over one end of the bed.

At the same time as the asparagus emerging so is the bindweed. Weeding out bindweed has to begin again and I soon moved on after the asparagus to dealing with the bindweed near it.

Planted more main crop potatoes.


May 4th 2005 The wind has turned to the north again and it is cold - no good for opening up beehives. I still have plenty of digging, sowing, weeding and planting to do but it was still tempting to stay on the south side of the sheds out of the wind. However, I need to sow more broad beans, as, for the first time ever in 20 years those sown already have been consistently dug up and eaten once they are an inch or so above ground. The next lot that I sow will have protection from birds as it is the crows that I blame for digging them up.

The Japanese onions are bolting again. Only two so far, but I'm sure there will be others to follow.

May 2nd 2005 We have been experiencing a spell of warm weather recently and it is well past time for clearing out and burning off the base of the WBC hive and as a swarm had been reported in the allotment a couple of days ago I was keen to check it wasn't from one of my hives. The WBC as in fine condition with a queen laying well. It was time to put some empty frames on ready for the storing of honey. The boxes look strange and naked on an old base but the hive needs a new paint job before it is put back together again.

Planted out Leamington spring cauliflower. Sowed first French beans.

Weekend April 29th May I'm still planting potatoes.


Monday 3rd May 2004 Rain

Sunday 2nd May 2004 The evening was sunny enough in for me to open the two bee hives that needed queen cells removed. Both hives had only two queen cells to choose from and they both now have only one. These two hives now need to be left alone for at least three weeks during which time the virgin queen bees will hatch out and build up their strength for their maiden flight. On one fine sunny day they will leave the hive and fly off to mate. There are now other bee keepers on our allotment site, so there will not only be drones from my own hives looking for flying virgin queen to mate with, but drones from their hives as well. Hopefully both virgin queens will mate and return safely to the hives they left. Then the hives can really get working again and make some honey.

The earliest planted Japanese onions have started to bolt.


4rd May 2002 The wind is in the north/north east. The has been cloudy with sunny intervals but the clouds had cleared by evening - and now we will have another cold night. I started sowing runner beans very early this year and those that have been coming through the ground while we have been having these cold nights are now a sickly yellow. The earliest sown are so far OK as they had a warm spell in early April to get established. They also have many self sown radish seedlings around them that I think may protect them a little (my excuse for not weeding them out yet). So far the potatoes have only been caught once very early on when they got the tips of their leaves singed but we still have some weeks to go before all threat of frost is over. Weeded the onion sets hoed and between rows. Watered the cauliflower. Bedding plants still need to come in at night or be in closed down cold frames.

2nd May 2002 As the ground is so right for planting out - I did - more sprouts, more lettuce and All The Year Round cauliflower that were given to me by Steve some weeks ago and have been in a holding bed (near the tap!) waiting to be moved to their final positions when they were big enough and the conditions right. Still need to weed the onion sets.

The rain came and with it the wind now by have ceased and this evening was calm and sunny. The three bee hives in the apiary all needed another box on the top as the one put on just over a week ago are nearly full. The ground in the allotment has been transformed as we did get a considerable amount of rain that has worked it's way right down a full spit into the soil. I planted out a few more calabrese broccoli and lettuce. As I left the plot the evening was clear and turning cold - frost could well do some damage tonight - the potatoes are well past being small enough to earth up and the earliest runner beans are a couple of inches high.


Time to start mowing the lawn


29/30 April 1st May The bank holiday weekend started warm and sunny and ended cold and gray as the wind returning to a North Easterly direction. The rough digging is almost complete and extra peas, beans, onions and carrots sown. I now have two complete rows of lettuces planted out thanks to my allotment neighbour - one coz and one soft round one.

The bees on the allotment are getting very itchy feet. My inspection at the beginning of the weekend meant the destruction of several queen cups with eggs laid in them. They seem to want to swarm already. I gave them another super in order to give them something else to do. Maybe now they won't feel so crowded and ready to leave. By the end the Monday Mayday Bank Holiday the weather was so cold very few were leaving the hive for anything. If we had a run of warm sunny weather these bees would be ideally set up to produce a good crop of honey - that is if I can prevent them from swarming.

Friday, 5th Today has been the first day since the weekend gone that we have seen the sun. The week has been cold, gray and generally miserable. No chance for making honey, even the honeysuckle is late flowering. We must now be a week behind previous years. Mowed the lawn.

6th May Saturday morning warm still and sunny - summer is here again. The plum tree outside my window has made several inches of growth already. Apparently now and the next few weeks is the best time to prune plum trees because the wounds (that can be the entry point for silver leaf disease) heal over faster when the plant is in the full surge of early summer growth.

Of the two bee hives that survived the winter one is continuing to be a mystery. No eggs have been laid so far this year. On two occasions I have switched empty frames with the other hive that contain eggs. The intention being that a queen less colony would take the opportunity to turn one or more eggs or early stage brood into a queen cell. So far no queen cells. So if the queen is there why doesn't she lay? On checking today and not finding a queen cell I didn't switch another frame deciding to see if the improved weather and the abundance of food supplies may bring the queen into lay. Rosemary tells me that it's possible that the queen won't lay until there is food to support the brood. In future I must ensure that enough sugar syrup is provided to see them through the winter.

The other 'cottage' hive had a sneaky maturing queen cell tucked away at the bottom of one of the last frames to check. As none of the other frames even had queen cups with eggs in I was thinking that this hive had no desire to swarm and very nearly missed it. Maybe I should have put this into the other hive to see what would happen. If the weather is fine tomorrow I will check the hive in the allotment and learning from today's lesson - very carefully.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for the next few weeks in the allotment. The potatoes are growing too big to be easily earthed up and are in danger if we get any more frost. Early sown beans, courgette's, tomatoes, etc. could also be damaged. On the other hand when the wind is from the south (as it is moving to at the moment) it suddenly becomes hot and sunny and the watering can may be needed.

At this time of year the snails that have hiding away for the winter are all about. In my garden they particularly like to get up under the gutter on the singles story kitchen extension behind the clematis. Now that I know that, they don't stay there for long. Over the wall is the school's, very wild, wildlife garden - just right for snails - but will they be back for the clematis?

I don't take cuttings of shrubs nowadays, as I don't have a greenhouse or conservatory, but I did in the past and several of my shrubs as a result have their own memories attached to them - some happy, some sad. I have a small flowered delicate lilac that came from a large fifteen-foot high shrub from the garden in the middle of Hyde Park Corner. It's flowering now and although I took the cutting maybe fifteen, or more, years ago it is only seven or eight feet high at it's highest point and but a few feet across in each direction. Each year, however, it grows in strength and vigour and I'm beginning to think that area beneath and around it is due for some replanting. Consultations with the head gardener will have to take place before I begin, or my work will subject to much criticism and eventually get undone.


May 2nd 1999 The bees are making honey. Day time temperatures are high for the time of year although we are still experiencing cold nights as the prevailing wind is coming from the East.

The last of the main crop potatoes, have now been planted. More French bean, radish, cabbage (January King) and runner beans sown.

May 5th. The first sowing of courgettes (F1 Zucchini) into open ground can now be risked and cabbages planted out. We are already beginning to need rain although the weather is changing and East met West this evening with a cold fine drizzle. Useful for planting out, but not enough to make a real difference. Wallflower, and more cabbage (Savoy) seed sown.

May 6th. Warm evenings have arrived the light breeze is from the West and early Summer is here. The winter cauliflower have just about finished as has the white and purple sprouting broccoli. For me that means digging in these old plants and planting out the new. Harold, my allotment neighbour, has given me some of his greenhouse germinated cabbage plants that are now standing in row where two hours earlier flowing purple sprouting broccoli, winter cauliflower and seeding beet spinach stood. Given a good dressing of blood fish and bone they will be welcome in the summer by which time we will have got bored with the taste of spring cabbage

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