Showing posts with label June. Show all posts
Showing posts with label June. Show all posts

7 Jul 2015

The food growing garden in June

Now there's a beautiful sight - bug free broad bean tops!

You've got to love June for the lushness of the garden!  I'm finding lots to sigh with pleasure over, despite June having been a completely manic month for me: going to shows (GrowLondon and Hampton Court), normal working life, son home from uni, masses of emergency watering needed (not of the boy. Although … ) and, at the beginning of the month, I was away in Hampshire for a couple of weeks because my elderly Mum was hospitalised after a fall, now safely back home with my dad.

There hasn't been a lot of time for gardening so I can thank my perennial veg and early sowings for food on the table. I've recently let the asparagus grow into fronds as I turned towards artichokes for a meal time treat. (Yes, I'm now a dab hand at cooking artichokes which is not as fiddly as it seems.) Kales and mange tout have been abundant and the broad bean pods are filling out nicely. In fact, they've filled out so quickly with regular watering and sunshine that I may pop down to the garden in a moment to see if any are ready for picking. Like everyone else, I've found black aphids to be prolific this year. Not every plant was affected but as I felt the need for some deep watering last Friday after days of tropical heat, I linked up the four hosepipes needed to reach the garden, connected these to a far away tap and squirted and squished the aphids on my beans into extinction.  Then it rained all night. Sod's Law and all that. It was still worth the effort to have clean, bug-free beans. (Plus, the tops are delicious lightly steamed with butter, salt and a grind of pepper.)

With the warm/hot weather, it's been even more of a joy to while away the still-long evenings in the cool of the garden. There's a lot to catch up on but I've gradually been moving plants off my balcony and into the ground. Timing has been crucial for this; when I took the beans and achocha down to transplant, it was too windy.  When I took the tomatoes down, the soil was like dust. When I planted out flowers, there was just enough light rain to bring the slugs out.  The usual run of the mill stuff we gardeners face.

Unbelievably, I still have more tomatoes to go out (multiple plants of 10 varieties - that's what happens when old seed stock is used up) and a courgette which I hope won't be too pot bound to grow successfully. The autumn Cavolo Nero in pots is ready to go out, which is just as well as one of the current Cavolos is in flower.  I'm not wasting these flowers, they're delicious in a salad (if they make it that far - I usually munch on them as I garden.)

I also want to sow seeds for more beetroot, peas and chard as the last lot have finished. It feels as though the gardening year is running away but it's only just July so there's still plenty of opportunity for planting and sowing.  And, in a few weeks, I hope to be eating potatoes, broad and french beans, the first of my cherry tomatoes and, by mid-August, even sweet corn.  The preserving jars are being made ready … :o)  (I have a great recipe for pickled beans which I'll post when the french beans are ready.)

The strawberries have not been good. Oh, there's been plenty of fruit but it's all been small and disappointing. I don't think there's anything wrong with the varieties I'm growing, it's the lack of water. Until I can properly sort that out, I'm thinking of giving up on strawberries.  Raspberries, on the other hand, never fail to please!  My autumn raspberries have been fruiting for the past few weeks - they have a tendency to start in June and fruit until November.  It starts with just a little bowlful now and again to which I can now add blueberries and honeyberries … and cherries if I can find a way of making sour cherries more palatable.  I've been reading that sour cherries are best for cooking as the levels of sweetness can be adjusted.  Some research and practise is needed, obviously, after last year's major fail of a cherry crumble.

And, to end on a high note - I have seen pears!  Admittedly only two or three but, hey, that's a start.  And enough to earn the trees a reprieve. If only there was also some plums …    I'm going to a summer fruit pruning workshop at Wisley this coming weekend and you know I'll be reporting back with my findings!

8 Jul 2011

Midsummer Veg Patch view ...

:: Sweet corn 6 weeks after planting out ::
Oh dear, 8th already and the last month has turned without the veg patch progress being recorded. Time for an update, I think; the days are slipping away and my brain is already planning winter veg.

I remembered to snap a few pics a week before the end of June and then took a few more a day or so ago, both of which are a week away from a true end-of-month but between them will provide a useful log of information for next year.  Take these courgettes, for example. Planted out early June, 4 weeks later, leaves the size of dinner plates with a few flowers. Good progress or good horse muck, who knows? Tra-la-la, it works.

:: 5th June courgette, approx 8 inches ::
:: 5th July courgette, approx 3 ft ::

The UK weather in June gave us some sunshine (plus 2 days of heatwave), brisk breezes and plenty of rain - often in the same day! Nights were cool and dawn often gave way to clear blue skies that clouded over by mid-morning. Endless days of buffeting winds made seed sowing and planting out quite challenging. Weeds flourished in the wet and warmth; continuously clearing them off became a necessary chore (which I haven't quite kept up with, despite a 2 hour session in a downpour). Early beetroot and carrots were enjoyed, beetroot tops, spinach leaves and herbs were added to salad (Oh for a few chickens to add freshly laid eggs to this!), french beans were resown along with sweet corn, radishes, spinach and wildflowers. The lavender, oregano and thyme flowers in the herb bed are a sight to gladden the heart on a sunny morning.

Recently though, I seem to have lost the habit of popping down every evening, there's just too much else to do. So, the spinach has bolted and new baby leaves are not quite ready, spring onion seeds are still in the packet whilst I continue to buy from the supermarket, the next lot of carrots are still to go in. Shame on me, most disorganised!

Porcelain garlicOn the bright side, onions, garlic, carrots and beetroot are bulking up, the courgettes are flowering - in fact the sweet corn  is struggling as most of it is hidden under the courgettes (is it too late to transplant, I wonder?).

Sweet peas are now scrambling rapidly up the netting, hopefully there'll be some flowers to look forward to in July as well as peas of the edible variety.  Self-seeding flowers (poppy, cerinthe, borage, honesty, calendula, nigella) added to the patch this year will make a bigger impact next year, but at least they're there.  The sunflowers (unplanned and sprinkled throughout) are a cheerful sight, growing up through the potatoes but the large ones, frankly, are blocking the path through the veg patch. Next year, I'll be more ruthless in pulling them out. (There's that learning curve, again.)


12 Jun 2011

June seed sowing...

Strawberry and tomato (as if you didn't know!)
My friend Ana has recently built her first raised bed and mentioned that she now needed to give some thought to what she wanted to grow.  I always say to home-grow the expensive stuff that would usually be bought from the supermarket, such as spinach and pea shoots, and from there we chatted about what could still be grown in June - especially as the seeds still have to be bought.  So that's garlic and onions out then, at least until November or early next year. (Onions are cheap to buy but I grow red and sweet white ones as they're much more expensive.)

One advantage to starting off now is that you may find a few of the seed companies (and supermarkets) are selling their seeds at a discount, but you have to be quick. Thompson and Morgan send out a newsletter with their special offers, worth signing up for as they recently had 50% off all seeds, too late for a mention here as that offer has finished. Also sign up to UK Veg Gardeners (it's free), join the Freebies and Bargains group and get alerted to any special offers as the members find them.

So, back to what can still be grown in June.  Actually, rather a lot - with the benefit that the ground will be warm and, hopefully, moist with all the recent showers. For a first year, I would (and did) go for quickly maturing veg such as salad leaves, radish, etc.  This will give the satisfaction of eating home-grown without the long wait. Baby spinach leaves can be picked in as little as 4 weeks.  Cut and come again lettuce is a good one, but grow it in a partly shaded area to prevent bolting (running to seed) if the weather gets hot again.  Home-grown tomatoes are delicious and mini plants are swamping the garden centres at the moment. Go for a small bush type and plant it in a grow bag (if you must, they're so ugly!) or trough to save space in your raised bed for other veg.  (Be aware if you buy strawberry plants this year that they won't fruit until next year.  They can also easily be grown from seed.)

Spinach leaves and Radish
Some carrot varieties (such as Amsterdam Sprint) take only 12 weeks to mature as baby carrots - but why bother as they're so cheap in the shops, although children are always fascinated with the idea of carrots straight from the garden. (Shades of Peter Rabbit, I think.)

I'd highly recommend Sweet corn, if you have room - baby corn or popping corn if space is an issue -  it's so much tastier cooked straight after picking; Stephen Shirley of Victoriana Nurseries gives the inside deal on growing it here on YouTube.

Fennel bulb, beetroot, french beans and peas can be sown outdoors now. Pea shoots can be grown in a window box or kitchen flowerpot and harvested within a couple of weeks as a tasty addition to a salad (as I'm sure all fans of Alys Fowler's Edible Garden programme will know!) - and you don't need special seeds, buy a pack of Bigga dried peas from the supermarket, they'll do the job.

And what about marrows and courgettes, perfect time to sow these straight into the ground. Courgette flowers (the female flowers with the fruit just forming behind) can be picked, stuffed and deep fried while the courgette continues to grow - the plant does get quite big but you can grow stuff around it, such as spinach, lettuce, herbs or nasturtium flowers (edible!).

Chard (Bright Lights) and Butternut Squash
Could you squeeze in some squashes? I fancy Sweet Dumpling squash; a pretty striped small winter squash, cook it whole and stuffed to enjoy it's sweet and tender orange flesh. Seeds should have gone in in May but nature catches up with itself, so it's worth giving it a go. Try training small squashes up a trellis, tying it in with soft ties as it grows and making sure to support the fruits as they develop.

And lets not forget winter veg:  mini cauliflowers, purple sprouting broccoli, asparagus for next spring (I'm planning to sow seed for Romanesco cauli aka broccoli when the rain stops).  Providing they don't bolt, seeds sown in July will overwinter (it worked for me last year) and make a delicious meal in the spring with some cheese sauce over the top, or add to a stir-fry.

Lastly, try and find a space between other veg for herbs: I can't do without parsley, thyme, oregano, coriander, mint and rosemary being readily available as I'm hopeless at planning ahead with buying herbs. (See my last post for a link to Monty Don planting herbs on Gardener's World.) Shop bought herbs won't last long if left in their pots as the seeds are overcrowded but garden centre herbs planted in a bed with space to grow will last you throughout the summer, and probably reappear next year - a much better investment!

I hope this has provided some inspiration, for Ana and for anyone else reading who may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by choice.  If you enjoy veg growing, it's well worth reading books on the subject from the library. Alan Buckingham's Allotment Month-by-Month is a good one, as in anything by Joy Larkcom.  You Tube fans might like to check out Claire's Allotment for her excellent how-to videos.

(This post is also for my sister, Sue, who is also enjoying the delights of home-grown spinach from her first raised bed. xx)
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