Happy Beltane to southern hemisphere readers (and Halloween to northerners). Today is one of those turning points in the photoperiod calendar. Although as far as temperature goes, it’s only mid spring, as far as day length goes, tomorrow is the start of summer – the season centred on the summer solstice when nights are at their shortest. The days are still getting longer, but today we pass the point on the bell curve where the rate of change slows right down. There’s a nice simple graph that explains it here.
What it means for gardeners is that anything that needs long days to flower and seed is likely to do it now. It’s called photoperiodism, and it’s non-negotiable! Sometimes this is a good thing, when it is the fruit that is the harvest, but if the heart or bulb or root is the harvest, it’s called bolting.
In my part of the world, it means from now on, onions and carrots are tricky. I give up on all the bulbing types of onions (including shallots), and stick to non-bulbing spring onions. Even leeks are touch and go and with the least bit of stress they will bolt to seed.
With carrots, I stick to very fast baby carrots this time of year. My celery is all starting to flower no matter how nicely I treat it, and I need to treat any lettuces I plant from now on as if they are divas.
Usually all this feels right – spring is normally such a harsh season here, our hot dry windy season – that I am not tempted to test the limits. But this year has been so cool and wet that I am looking at my carrot seeds thinking, maybe I’ll get away with another round? Which is why I’m writing this. Someone tell me to go plant a pineapple instead!