Growing a Greener Henley – Don’t forget No Mow May!


Yes, it is May – and the strange weather continues. In the last couple of months, we’ve experienced everything that can make growing new plants tricky – or impossible. The window sills in my house are crammed with seedlings and the little potting shed is overflowing.  Fortunately, nothing is looking ‘leggy’ yet.  It’s not a complete disaster if they are.  Try repotting in a deeper pot and gently sink the seedling down so that a good proportion of the overly long stem is under the soil. That should help until things warm up later in the month.

Think ahead

If you follow Bosley Patch on Instagram you’ll know that Tamsin has posted some great ‘in advance’ advice on caring for the young tomato plants they are nurturing.  Now is the time to think about the conditions they’ll live in when they are mature enough to be sold and we take them home. Rather like taking on a new puppy or rescue dog, don’t buy them on a whim. As Tamsin points out, if we don’t take proper care we waste all the time and energy that goes into growing them. There’s an environmental cost to that, quite apart from anything else.  To find the link to their Instagram account, visit

Growing food at home – Jean

Whether we’re growing veg in the garden or on the allotments, we’ll be sowing in earnest this month.  Jean, who grows all her food at home in her small Henley garden, brings us up to date with her progress.

“This month I’ll be –

  • Sowing beans (runners and French) in modules
  • Potting on tomatoes …. again!  I lost a couple of plants when we had the snow.  Perhaps I can grow some replacements? I’m told that when I pinch out the side shoots of the healthy ones, I can put them in soil and they’ll root and grow.
  • I already have loads of beetroot at various stages in the greenhouse.  They’ll be going in the garden too ….. Beetroot is great for cleansing the blood, kidneys, liver et.  Beet Kvass is a fermented drink, very simple to make and great for gut health.  It’s a fabulous pick-me-up.  I use the beetroot tops as spinach too.  I love dual purpose veggies.
  • Carrots will also be sown this month.”

Down on the allotments

Down on Greencroft Allotments, my broad bean plants are the shortest I’ve ever seen them in May – even the ones I sowed last November.  Perhaps they’ve been wise to keep their heads down. One advantage is that they haven’t been too battered by the very strong winds.  As always, their leaves have been nibbled by weavils.  The frilly edges don’t seem to affect the harvest or the taste so I don’t worry about them.

The rabbits have been busy too.  For the first time ever, they’ve eaten all the radishes I sowed to mark the parsnip rows. Also for the first time ever, every parsnip has germinated.  They now mark the rows where the radishes should have been!

Dave and Sally

On their plot at the other end of Greencroft, Dave and Sally have also had success with parsnips.  They’ve been experimenting with sowing them in loo rolls.

“Having waited and waited for warm weather to arrive, we sowed carrots, leeks, parsnips, beetroot and spring onions last week, direct into the ground. We half-filled the drills with potting compost and watered well before sowing. Then covered them with fleece.

The good news is that the dozen parsnips in loo roll holders are now showing through – 100% germination! When the roots reach the bottom of the loo rolls, we’ll plant them out while they are still small.  We’ll use this method again next year.

The germination of our brassicas (Brussels, caulis, cabbages), sown in modules and trays on 9th April has been disappointing.  50% success at best.  We’ll need to resow to have enough to enjoy next winter.

May is going to be a busy month!  All the outdoor Summer crops (runner beans, cucumbers, courgettes, marrow, squashes, sweet corn) can be sown now in pots ready to go out later in the month.  But wait for the soil to warm up before sowing direct – likely to be at least mid-May from the weather forecast.”

Garden Trees Campaign

The weather might be chilly but Patrick, the organiser of the Greener Henley Garden Trees Campaign has a heart-warming update.

“Greener Henley have now delivered or planted the 700th tree as part of the ‘Free Garden Trees’ offer.  It all started at the end of January as a campaign on Facebook and was given great coverage in the Henley Herald.  The requests for trees have been coming in steadily over the last three months and the numbers have exceeded all our expectations.  We’ve also made many good contacts which bodes well for next year.

We plan to be back in the Autumn with a wider selection of trees.  If you would like a tree, have land that you would like to plant or rewild, or if you are interested in helping us with this work, please get in touch.”

No Mow May

Don’t forget to give the lawnmower a rest this month.  If you are a tidy gardener and can’t face leaving a large patch of grass to grow, try leaving a strip or a corner and see what happens.

A Wildlife Wish

Henley’s Walkers are Welcome are taking part in the Chiltern Walking Festival.  If stepping stones, a wildlife trail and making a wish at the Wishing Tree sounds like an interesting mix for your family, sign up for A Wildlife Wish walk on Wednesday 26 May.  The stroll is short and suitable for any age group but will be especially interesting for families whose children have already reached the age of 6.  Bookings will be taken on a first come first served basis so check the website for sign up details.

See you in June when perhaps we’ll be warmer!