After my question last week regarding whether or not you had heard a Cuckoo this year, I was inundated with smug sounding messages from a broad range of my readership. It almost felt that my nose was being rubbed into the dirt, whilst self-satisfied readers jigged around my prostrate body chanting “I’ve heard a Cuckoo, I’ve heard a Cuckoo!”. Well I’ve got news for you…..I’VE HEARD A CUCKOO! Yes, for all of 2 seconds yesterday afternoon, after arriving back from the farmers’ market. I’m sure it was; yes it must have been. What else could it have been? Don’t say Pigeon, just don’t.

Well that was a busy old week, but a satisfying one. The weather was lovely, I even gave the varicose veins an airing, wearing my shorts all week, until Friday when it turned much cooler. Having said that, on Monday and Tuesday mornings there were frosts, but fortunately they were not severe enough to cause any damage, so my concern over the vulnerability of the early potatoes was unnecessary. I am now confident that the last of the cold nights are behind us, and that it’s now safe to start planting out some of the tender summer crops. The polytunnel is cleared, cultivated and ready to receive tomato plants, which it will tomorrow. In the next day or two I will also set out courgettes and beans. I planted more kale, cauliflowers and lettuces last week, and did lots of hoeing too. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are growing strongly, with the first ones planted now forming their second truss of fruit, so it’s now all about side-shooting, training and feeding.

On Tuesday evening I was visited by more than 30 members of the Suffolk Organic Gardeners club. It was a tight squeeze in the potting shed I can tell you! We had a wander around the site, during which I explained some of my methods, and answered questions on a wide range of topics related to organic growing. The evening weather was perfect, and I think that most people enjoyed the occasion; particularly the tea and cake at the end.

Earlier in the day I was rushing around trying to get the place tidied up in readiness for the visit, when circumstances conspired to thwart me. First of all I captured a dog that had been seen on the loose around the estate for days. It had an accomplice, but I wasn’t able to apprehend it. Both had been spotted early that morning at the edge of the garden of the ‘big house’, and mid-morning I heard some barking in that direction, so headed off towards it, taking a rope with me, just in case. An elderly Border Collie was barking while looking across one of the paddocks towards the woods. I am assuming that is where its buddy had gone. I approached it and managed to slip my rope through its collar. It looked tired and thin, but it had a name tag with phone numbers on it, which I called, without receiving a reply. I took ‘Fly’ back to the shed and tethered it to the trunk of a small tree whilst the local Dog Warden was called. They came an hour or so later and took the dog off to the pound. I believe that dog and owner have been reunited, but I have heard nothing about the other stray. About an hour after the wardens had departed I was planting kale, when I looked up to see a swarm of honeybees swirling above the low greenhouse. It just so happened that I had a ‘bait’ hive set up for the purpose of attracting a swarm, and sure enough that’s where they were headed. Within half an hour they had pretty well settled, and appear to be happy in their new home. I will take a look in the hive this week if I get the chance, just to see if everything is as it should be. So, both distractions took up valuable time, but they resulted in satisfactory outcomes, so that was good.

“There’s a choice of 4 types of lettuce this week”. “Did you say 4 types? I can’t quite believe what I’m hearing”. “You’d better believe it, 4 types…green frilly, red frilly, red gem, and red round ones; it’s totally saladtastic”. I’m going to be pulling spring onions from the greenhouse to go with them; they are not very big, but I’ve got to clear the bed for the sweet peppers. I am also going to start picking chard from outside, it will be in short supply, but it’s a sign of good things to come. Next week I will be lifting some Kohl Rabi, and broad beans are probably only a couple of weeks off. Back to the present, there will be broccoli, courgette, beetroot, asparagus, tomatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and potatoes. The ‘Cara’ old potatoes are holding up quite well, albeit you may need to rub a few shoots off them, but they remain firm. I have taken a punt on a very small quantity of new potatoes from Italy this week as a one-off, so order early if you would like some. Oranges, kiwi fruit and lemons remain on the list.

Nelly news. She’s growing! We’ve had her a month now, and back when she was first with us she weighed 10kg; last week she was up to 15kg! And she’s getting rather long in the leg too. Until yesterday she had been very nervous of water, to the point where she wouldn’t go near it (unless it was in a bowl), but at Sudbury water meadows some new playmates demonstrated how much fun it was to run around in the shallows, and so she had a go….and liked it. She is continuing her one-sided relationship with our bantam. She flops down next to her, and sometimes even on her, not put off by multiple pecks from the indignant bird.

Jennifer will be at Steeple Bumpstead farmers’ market on Saturday, and I will be at Wyken as usual. It’s another Bank Holiday weekend, so let’s hope the weather behaves so that you can get out and enjoy gardens or the countryside at their best.

Right I’m off. Cuckoo!

Phil

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