Walking to work this morning, I genuinely considered donning some gloves. There was a veritable chill in the air, the North Face winter jacket was zipped up to my eyeballs and the wind howled around me as I paced Manchester's busy streets.
This is a post about that age old rogue, the BRITISH WEATHER.
There's no doubt that this spring the weather has been unseasonably bad – showers, cold temperature: we even had hail yesterday morning. But while I can seek refuge in sensible clothing and a (thankfully) overheated office, what about the London Vegetable Garden plants?
I'm currently growing several vegetable seedlings, as well as staggering the growing of further seeds. Despite living in a roomy cottage, space remains at a premium, so while some plants have been enjoying a skylight in my wife's attic studio, I have been hardening others off outside during the day before moving them into the outside mini greenhouse.
Despite this outdoor protection, temperatures have been regularly reaching zero recently, which makes me glad that I haven't planted anything out just yet. In the spirit of this blog, I decided to compare my indoors and outdoors plants to see whether being outdoors really has affected the young vegetable plants in any way.
I have two different comparison pictures for you here – some tomatoes and some courgettes. The plant on the left is the outside plant, whilst the plant on the right is one that has been kept inside at all times – take a look:
As you can see, the plants on the right (indoors) are faring better than the outdoors plants. The outdoors plants are by no means suffering from the adverse weather; yet they are equally taking a bit longer to grow than their indoor counterparts.
So what does this mean for growing vegetables outdoors, be it in pots on the balcony, in grow bags on the patio, or indeed, out in the vegetable garden? Well, from my amateur observations, it appears that this cold weather IS affecting plant growth – but not to the extent that it will actively damage the plants – especially if they have been hardened off.
My advice to you with this weather is as follows:
* Harden off plants by placing them outside during the day and bringing them in during the night. This gives them a chance to acclimatise to their new outdoor climate while ensuring that the young seedlings and plants aren't killed off by a sudden frost before they are hardy enough to hold their own.
* Keep warmth-loving plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes inside on a warm windowsill until they are really established young plants. This ensures that they have built up some sturdy strength for when you do plant them.
* Finally, don't panic! If the cold weather has meant your vegetable plants are growing slowly; fear not! We're all in the same boat and it simply means we'll have our vegetable crops a few weeks later than we would have. And who knows – we may have a long summer to keep vegetable plants cropping well into September!
I'd really like to hear what YOU lot, my faithful readers, are experiencing with the weather. What are YOUR seedlings and plants doing? Do you have any tips to share with the London Vegetable Garden community? Please feel free to add your comments below, tweet me @londonveggarden or share your tips over on Facebook.