Thursday, 19 April 2018

the hottest day

The plants in the greenhouse have survived the hottest April day since 1949.  Or at least the hottest in London, where St James Park reached 28.3 degrees, a little short of the 29.4 degrees the thermometer hit in 1949, but still awfully hot.  Fortunately it was not as hot as that in north Essex.  Our outdoor thermometer seems to have packed up, or is no longer speaking to the weather station, but according to the Met Office Elmstead Market was due to see 21 degrees.  That's still nearly twice the April average maximum temperature.

The BBC sounded jolly chirpy about it throughout the day, with the weather forecasters telling us what the lovely weather had been today before describing tomorrow as still lovely although not quite as hot, as though heat equated with loveliness.  The presenters on the World at One and the Six o'clock News sounded equally enthusiastic.  Although what broadcasters say about weather makes no earthly difference to what the weather does, I wished, not for the first time, that they could just present the facts and leave their listeners to add their own value judgements.

I was relieved to make it through to lunchtime, and then through the afternoon, without going into the greenhouse to find that half my pots of seedlings had collapsed.  Every door and window that could be opened was open.  I put the shading paint on just before the weather started to warm up.  I watered every pot first thing this morning, and damped down the floor of the greenhouse to get the evaporative cooling effect as it dried.  That was all I could do.  Sometimes it is not enough.  One scorchingly hot day in April, when seedlings have emerged but are still tiny and fragile, can be enough to undo tens of hours of planning, sowing, and pricking out.  In fact I have been holding back from doing any more pricking out since last weekend, knowing it was likely to get hot and not wanting the young plants to go into the mini-heatwave with freshly disturbed roots.

I had been toying with the idea of going to London today to catch the current exhibition at Dulwich, which ends in a couple of weeks, or else the Queen's Gallery, where Charles II: Art and Power ends in the middle of next month.  Since we are about to disappear to Cornwall time to see either is running out.  I gave up on that idea as it became clear how hot it was due to be this week, since London in 28.3 degrees would be horrible and I wanted to be able to keep an eye on the greenhouse.  Avoiding the Queen's Gallery was probably a good call in any event, since I heard on the news that the Queen was hosting the Commonwealth heads at Buckingham Palace, so access to the gallery would probably have been tricky.  I once arrived just as they were about to Troop the Colour, and was kettled on the wrong side of the road for ages.  Goodness knows what delays there would be with the heads of the Commonwealth and Theresa May all turning up.

Tomorrow is forecast to be slightly fresher, and then temperatures should drift down into next week.  I shall be perfectly happy if it is not this hot while we are away, as it will save me from worrying too much about my seedlings.  I am sure Mr and Mrs Smith will do their best, but seedlings are not the easiest things to manage.

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