Gardening Year, Guest Posts, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

Mr Digwell’s May Blog

In this series of posts on the Primrose Blog, gardening writer Paul Peacock, alias Mr Digwell, will talk about the gardening month including tasks for the month and what to look forward to. Work alongside Paul to turn your garden into the haven you want it to be.

If there is an important month in the gardening year it is that halfway between May and June. Gardens don’t have months, weeks or days. They react to the weather and grow accordingly.  We humans, on the other hand, have dates printed on our seed packets and gardening calendars and get all upset when we miss out sowing our seeds on the right day.

Take potatoes, for example. It is said that first early potatoes should be in the ground by St Patrick’s Day, 17th March. But the truth is  you can still plant them in June! But it is this month that the coolness of spring starts to turn into the warmth of summer that things need to be done.

The grass needs cutting down to its nominal height. I cut every fortnight over a six week period, reducing the height of the cut each time. And don’t forget a good edge – it makes all the difference, an edge lawn. You can buy electrical edgers that do the job in minutes, but if you are anything like me there is something relaxing going round the lawn with edging shears – it’s the accuracy involved, and the feel of making something so wonderfully neat.

Now is a good time to feed the lawn, and to reseed any of the blemishes caused by drips of petrol from the mower or worse still, a forgotten something left behind by a pet. Either way the scorched grass will give way to moss, and then you are in a downward spiral.

There are some delights in the garden. Dicentra drooping with wonderous flowers look like sweets to be eaten face the cool breeze in our Lancashire hillside garden, and look marvelous. Californian poppies have seeded themselves into the rough wall on one side of the garden. Their golden yellow promises a balmy summer ahead – that’s what I hope for anyhow.

Thankfully the tomatoes are in their final growing positions and I have a few rows of cabbage: “All Year Round” and “Red”. Both my favourites, I chop them for salad almost exclusively.

As I pass round the year, there always seems to be a plant that catches my eye. Sometimes I might say It’s the year of the rose, or something else, and usually there are six or more plants that seem to do better than ever before. So far, this year, it has been the pieris.  It can be all but forgotten, stuck somewhere in the hedge, but this year it shouts – loud. The bright pink terminal leaves resemble flowers, but are not. The real flowers  all but hidden away, tiny white bells that seem to put lilly of the valley in mind.

Easy to care for, just prune it to keep a shape and maybe feed it once a year in spring, and you will have a plant that will keep you forever in jealous looks from neighbours. What the next plant to shine forth will be I don’t yet know – I have my eye on a few.

I love digging – it’s the start of a new year. For me digging reminds me of blackcurrants, because the wind blows through my bushes and is scented by them. You get the vivid impression of the sap moving in the plant, and the aroma of distant blackcurrant is one of those gardening delights you have to experience to believe.

My old bushes have come out this year and we have replaced them with new. Consequently, I am not too sure about the crop we will get – hopefully the freezer will be just as full as it was last year.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is involved in an inner city program in Manchester which aims to encourage people to grow their own food whether they have a garden, an allotment, or even a balcony, as well as leading a co-operative initiative to train city dwellers to keep bees on allotments and gardens

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden.