The cold weather is finally warming up a little, but the nights are still cold, too cold for my tomatoes to be happy in my coldframes just yet. If I had an unheated greenhouse I might risk it with a covering of horticultural fleece. We are not allowed glass structures on our allotments, and it should be noted that polytunnels are not very frost proof but serve only to raise the temperature during the day, not doing a great job of maintaining it at night. Many nurseries have polytunnels full of bedding in April, but with frost-stat heaters at night.
I shall be playing tomato hokey kokey a while longer, in the kitchen at night, out during the day. The last first last year was 10th May. Running out of space indoors with every windowsill crammed with plants, I now have the fastest greenhouse in the west. My Citroen Berlingo makes an excellent seedling greenhouse, with a large load space and windows all round. I think my next vehicle might be a Pope-mobile. I didn’t realize every county council the pope visited in 2010 had their own made, usually a Range Rover or Mercedes conversion, and a few are for sale third hand. Tall enough for a Pope, it would also be tall enough for tomatoes and be cheaper than a posh greenhouse. It would solve the problem of who could be relied upon to water the plants properly if you need to travel.
Meanwhile the paperwork of plant importation requires the registration and filling in at least 6 forms, and some continental suppliers simply can’t be doing with the hassle of supplying the UK at the moment. Garden centres are ordering as many plants as the wholesalers will release and the landscaping trade is finding supplies are running very short. Grasses and perennials are being propagated as fast as possible and will be released for sale soon.
Don’t be surprised if many varieties are not available and some plants are not rooted round as much as they ought to be. Tap plants out of their pots carefully and maintain the rootball as best as you can when planting out. Trees take several years to produce and supplies are running very short, so be prepared to order now for supply next year.
In the meantime, make your summer garden beautiful by sowing some hard annuals such as poppies, marigolds and love-in-a-mist right now. Growing flowers from seed is still underrated. Gardening does not always have to be expensive or long term…and many annuals will self-seed year after year.