We're fairly lucky here in the Cambridgeshire Fens to benefit from moderately warm conditions. We're just far enough inland to avoid the worst of the northerly winds coming in off the north sea, which usually means that, by the first few weeks of May, the last of the frosts have gone.

This year has been different though, with the weather seemingly never going to warm up. This had meant that the runner beans I'd started off in cardboard pots to give them a head start were growing far too tall to keep in the polytunnel any longer and a courgette was beginning to take up too much room to keep at home any longer.

So, reluctantly, at the start of the week, I planted the runners below my bean poles and stuck a courgette in one raised bed, surrounded by a blind of fleece to try and cut the chances of its leaves getting wind burnt.

Thursday, I had a day off work and had to go into town first thing. As I queued in traffic outside a car dealers, I noticed that the cars on the forecourt had a very thick coating of frost. Late morning, I was free for the rest of the day, so I headed down to the plot, having forgotten the cold blanket I'd seen on the cars earlier in the day.

Arriving on the plot, I noticed the runners had wilted. No great surprise. I'd taken a chance planting them early in the hope of catching the very start of the useful growing season, knowing the gamble could backfire and that, if it did, I still had time to sow some direct into the ground.

Unzipping the polytunnel, the site which greeted me left me slightly more perplexed. The last time I watered, I'd added some comfrey and nettle tea to the water in the hope of boosting growth. My first thought was that everything I had watered with it had died. But, surely, that's not possible? Had someone sabotaged my plot?

A very sad looking melon.

Slowly, my brain whirred into the realisation that everything dead was frost sensitive - a melon, my 4 lovely healthy Gardener's Delight cherry tomato plants, french beans and my sweetcorn. Surely, the weather can't be that cold in May in Cambridgeshire? A quick wander around outside and I quickly realised that the courgette safely nested under fleece had also shrunk away to nothing and that self seeded potatoes on a bare neighbouring plot had also turned purple and wilted.

I'm not sure how it can be the case when my car was frost free in the mornings, but we've clearly had one serious frost which has caught the lot. Frankly, I'm amazed that we can get such a hard frost that it has killed tomatoes in the polytunnel, but it's clearly the case.

Gardener's Delight. Not.

I guess it was inevitable that something had to go wrong sooner or later. Everything had been going far too well up to now. The only consolation is that I wasn't alone. Even some of the old boys on the plot seem to have been caught out by it. I've heard it suggested that the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in Iceland is causing us to suffer poor weather. Not sure if that's the case, whether it's the flip side of global warming - or just one of those winters. Either way, I'm going to have to gather myself up, start again and hope that we get a sudden hot spell so my crops recover.

Ironically, the one thing not hit by last week's frosts was a cucumber. Supposedly, they wake up each morning thinking of new ways to die - yet one I had in the raised beds, covered by a cloche has survived so far. This, combined with the way in which things have suffered worse at one end of the polytunnel leads me to the inevitable conclusion that the real culprit this week was a hard frost, combined with a cool northerly breeze, which the cloche protected the cucumber from. I've contemplated planting a hedge down one side of the plot to reduce the icy winds which cut across the pretty exposed site. I've been put off the idea by the fact it'll reduce my growing space and may cause complaints from neighbours. This week though makes me wonder whether I should revisit the idea.


May 15, 2010 В· admin В· No Comments
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