2 Jul 2018

Weed, Mulch, Water, Clear - the yin and yang of gardening

It's been a busy month in the veg patch.  Every year I imagine that I'll reach that dreamed of moment when all that's needed is a little light watering in the evening and a chance to sit and relax.  Hohoho. Well, that's certainly not happening this year! (Does it ever?)

As usual, there's been good and bad, yin and yang, light and shade.  The heatwave continues so watering is sparse but slugs are few; flowers have bloomed then faded much too quickly; aphids have been legion, weeds less so. Hopefully after my efforts in past weeks, the bad will have been nudged to one side. Temporarily, at least.

I've used some of my precious Dalefoot compost on the veg beds - tickling a bit into the soil first, then watering and adding a layer as mulch around the plants. It's made from sheep's wool and bracken so has excellent moisture retention qualities, just what's needed in this hot weather.  Pumpkins, courgettes and squashes will also benefit from the added nutrients and are looking very healthy.

Sugar Snap peas are also looking good. They were sown in mid-May and we've only had one week of wet weather since so I've had to water them from a can when I have time. With no nearby tap, I've filled the water butts and draw water sparingly from there; it's not ideal but it has to do.

My broad beans have been cleared. Module sown in January, then planted into the garden as small plants in early April, they'd become heavily infested with black aphids. I tried the usual squishing a few weeks ago, then squirting as numbers increased (dilute a dollop of eco dish soap with water in a spray bottle). By mid-June I admitted defeat.  The swarms of sap suckers had made their way down to the fattening bean pods; it was the final straw so I pulled up the plants for compost.  I was able to rescue a few pods after a good wash, enough for a couple of salads or a risotto, but that's it. The garden is now too full to start over with another crop (I used the vacated space for my winter broccoli plants) so I'm trying something new; I've sown the last of my Karmazyn broad beans into a pot for salad leaves.  And next time, I'll be sowing my broad beans in October for overwintering.

This idea of having broad bean flavoured salad leaves came from Mark at Vertical Veg
I knew of growing peas for shoots but not broad beans - clever, eh?

Harvests seems to be quite slow this year - or is that just me?  I stopped harvesting rhubarb and asparagus by mid-June. Actually, the asparagus was quite good this year, a steady stream of a small plateful of stems every week from the three remaining crowns -  just enough to get excited about without overwhelm.  They've now grown into towering ferny stalks with bees all over the flowers.

I've also had a few mange tout (so nice of the slugs to leave a few for me) and strawberries but that's it apart from some kale and Komatsuna. Oh, and cherries, so so many cherries. Hopefully it will be a different story in a few weeks - by then, the onions and garlic I planted out late should be ready to lift, I'll have peas, ripe red gooseberries and redcurrants and maybe even some tomatoes and curly kale.

What does everyone else think - are your gardens on track or do you sense some delays?

Gardening Tip:

Legumes (beans, peas) draw nitrogen from the air and fix it in nodules on their roots to benefit the plant during growth. It was thought that leaving the roots in the soil would then benefit follow on plants but now science says that if you want your soil to benefit, the plants have to be grown as a catch crop and cut down before the flowers turn to pods.

Another tip:
I’ve just read in ‘Our Plot’ by Cleve West that if blackfly persist after pinching out the tips of the plant, he makes a slurry of mud and water to rub into the plant to thwart the aphids.


  1. The business of using Broad Bean leaves as a salad ingredient is new to me. I would have thought they would be too tough for that, so I look forward to hearing what you think of them. Crops on my new plot are developing slowly because of the dry conditions, but in my home garden they are doing better, since I can water more conveniently - and more often.

    1. I'm sure that my veg patch would be so much more productive with regular deep watering; it's very frustrating! The broad bean shoots are new to me also, Mark. I read about them with interest on Mark Ridsill-Smith's blog, 'Vertical Veg', and thought it was worth giving it a go. I'll write about the results - they've certainly germinated very quickly. (Balcony grown = regular watering!)

  2. I often wonder is work ever stops in a garden! Lovely seeing how well everything is doing. I think the potatoes and courgettes are behind this year.xxx

    1. There's always something to do in a garden - if you're not battling weeds or drought, it's slugs or other pests. I opted for onions and garlic rather than potatoes this year but am growing a few Oca plants this year; they're supposed to taste like lemony potatoes! I'm hoping that everything else will catch up - it is only July after all! xx

  3. It must be very difficult having no easily accessible water supply. I think if we were in that situation most of our plants would be dead by now.

    1. I've found that many seeds just didn't germinate, Sue - too much heat, not enough water - and the ones that did germinate then need priority watering. It's very hard to get things looking lush with minimal watering, especially this summer.

  4. I too am waiting for that magical year :) Although some plants are loving the heat - the squash and cucumbers are monsters! - others are not. Judging by the rather lackluster foliage, I have a feeling the potato harvest will be disappointing this year.


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