May on the plot
The British Mistral has continued to blow during the opening weeks of May. Following a ‘dry’ winter with lower rainfall than normal this will only increase the possibility of a summer drought. There is still enough time to avoid too much collateral damage on the plot. Water in the cool of the evening or early morning before the sun gathers too much strength. After watering cover the soil with a 5 cms deep mulch. You may not have enough organic material to do the job but use shreddings, coarse gravel or even stones to cover the soil over the roots. Of course you will have to use your favourite method of slug control. But here’s hoping that ground beetles will also take advantage of the cool shade to hide away during the heat of the day. Another method to conserve soil moisture is to hoe at every opportunity to create a dust mulch on the surface of the soil. It reduces losses via evaporation from the sun and wind.
May is the month to look out for gooseberry fly attack on the soft fruit bed. If you only have a small number of plants it could just be a case of a finger and thumb job to remove and crush them or put them on the bird table; alternatively you could try treatment with the biological control steinernema carpocapse, which is safe to use all around the garden. It is harmless to wildlife, pets and humans without leaving any residues. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Of course there is also fine mesh netting you could use but inspect the plants to make sure that you don’t trap any of the little beasts on the inside. The gooseberries will have to be thinned to encourage the development of plump berries. The thinnings will be a little on the sharp side but are great for making gooseberry pie.
Keep the strawberry bed weed free and cover the plants against bird and squirrel damage. They seem to like them as much as us. Pack clean straw under the fruits to keep them off the soil. If finding straw is difficult it may be worth considering growing the plants in pots or growbags on a raised table like the commercial growers. One major advantage of this system is it raises the fruits away from the damaging reflected heat from the soil.