Showing posts with label May. Show all posts
Showing posts with label May. Show all posts

7 Jun 2020

Crisp and Dry - End of month review for May

What can I say about this year's marvellous month of May? It's been a throwback to that glorious summer of 2018, with blue skies most days, hot sun and the occasional crispy plant if I didn't water every day. I'm wondering whether this is a seasonal blip or a transition reflecting climate change. All I know is that it has been rather lovely to have some wonderful bright weather to coincide with the coronavirus lockdown, and gardens full of colour.

At the beginning of the month, most of my food growing efforts for this year were still being hardened off on the often windy cliff face of my balcony, in training for the rigours of the great outdoors.  But the veg garden wasn't quite ready for them - rotting wooden raised beds had to be removed, seedlings cleared, plants relocated.  But it really wasn't as bad as I make it sound.

To be honest, this warm weather has caught me slightly off guard.  I usually sow mid spring and plant out when safe rather than having to see my beans munched by slugs and my corn flattened by strong winds funnelling between the buildings.  Playing it safe will result in later harvests than expected, but the plants will soon catch up. And the hot, dry weather has meant slugs are less adventurous.

The Veg Patch In May

Wild garlic leaves and elderflowers in a wooden tray

Outside in the veg patch, over the course of the month, broad bean flowers turned into fat pods, black aphids moved in, chamomile bloomed, wild garlic was made into delicious pesto and elderflowers were made into cordial and ice cream. (Yes! Elderflower ice cream - who knew? Thanks Instagram!)

A couple of purple sprouting broccoli plants, sown in June last year, should have sprouted in March and April. The plants are as confused as I am by the changing weather. One is huge (as expected) but budless, the other barely a foot high and had just started to sprout in the month's final week.  The harvest will be minimal but appreciated.  That's if the caterpillars don't get there first; there have been sightings, it's time to be vigilant.

But the really exciting news is that I've seen not just one but two fat little plums on the plum trees. Truly, a thrilling moment as it looks like these may actually ripen as the tree enters its second decade. And (please, please) might there be more if I look hard enough?  Could this be the year that the tree realises its purpose?

Failing that, there's always apples.  Both Braeburns and the Core Blimey apple trees are laden with tiny fruitlets. I must remember to thin them this year. (After the June drop.)

The quince, on the other hand, is confused. I last mentioned the swirls of blossom at the end of March; at the end of May, there appears to be very little fruit forming ... and, bizarrely, the tree has blossom on it once again.  Ten out of ten for trying.

The Salad Garden

Reflected evening sunlight on elderflower

My work in this garden has been scented by the flowers of a very mature elder tree all month.  These flowers are particularly sweet smelling and many evenings there have been accompanied by the song of a wren sitting in the branches high above me. I recorded the song one sunny evening and played it back, leading to a duet between the bird and my phone - and several others in the trees across the railway tracks. Such a rare treat in an urban setting. (And if, like me, you're unsure of which birds you're listening to, I have found the Chirp-o-matic app very helpful in identifying the song!)

The Veg Trugs in the salad garden have proved to be an excellent addition and so useful in providing slug free, easily picked ‘rabbit food’. I've been eating a selection of richly vibrant lettuce and other leaves throughout the month; it's my lunchtime treat.

The rocket is now starting to bolt (I may leave a few plants for their peppery flowers) but I failed to scale up realistically from my balcony salad trays and definitely sowed seeds too thickly here. I’m thinning the plants out now that they’re well past the micro leaf stage and leaving a few lettuces to get to full size.

I sowed with a lighter hand in Veg Trug #2 so leaves there are more manageable.  I've had to remove the fleece covers (too hot) and ordered mesh covers to keep bugs off. Too late it seems. Frustratingly, the mesh still hasn't arrived but will be in place for successional sowings.  And it's surprising how many bugs come out in the wash.

The third Veg Trug has been set up and now houses a few of my very many tomato plants. I'm using the spaces in between the plants for basil and borage, both of which are helpful companion plants for tomatoes. And I might add another row of carrots because, really, is there such a thing as too many carrots? (And, again, the height of the Veg Trugs is handy for this because the carrot root fly can't zoom up high enough to invade my crop when thinning.)

The few potatoes I'm growing this year are really just to test the Root Pouch planter which I was given at the Garden Press Event pre-lockdown. All seems to be growing well but the proof will be in the unearthing.  The spuds aren't ready yet but the pouch is alleged to produce better roots - and therefore more spuds? We shall see.

The Lime Tree Garden

My aim with this garden was to create another haven for pollinators.  I'm not quite there yet but I'm beginning to see a greater variety of bees visiting the garden, especially on the yellow flowers of the bolted broccoli. This plant, in the seasonal way of things, has now been pulled out. It’s done its work.

I've left the Geranium phaeum to flower as long as possible as a food source for bees but, by the end of the month, I'd chopped it right down - more buzz cut than Chelsea chop - necessary for relocating it to a shadier spot.  Hollyhocks will replace it, growing next to white foxgloves and Verbena bonariensis.

Further down this same bed, the flowers of Iris Susan Bliss came and went.

My lovely ranunculus flowers were over in what seemed like days.  I certainly didn't have the weeks of display of last year; I blame the weather. Anyhow, their day is done and I'm going to start over next year so have pulled up all the corms. 

Dahlia pots have come out of storage - i.e. dragged out from under the hedge.  I must admit that I'm being lazy and not planting them into the soil this year. I'll probably get less flowers but I'm taking my cue from The Pottery Gardener who grows everything in tubs or pots. Watering and feeding will be key.

Although this garden was set up as a space for flowers, herbs and relaxing, inevitably some food growing has crept in with blueberries, gooseberries, strawberries and even Chilean Guava all doing well.  They’re making the most of the extra light  while the pollarded lime trees remain as leafless pillars.

And while there’s light, I've planted a squash, a butternut and a courgette into a large corner that in a couple of years will be, once again, in deep shade under the lime trees.  For now though, I just want to see how the plants perform.  And, as a precaution, those plants have been temporarily caged - this garden is a favourite haunt of night time fox cubs!

And, finally, there was tea ...

An Australian permaculture channel posted a video for what they call 'Immune-i-Tea' ... a delicious immune boosting drink made from garden herbs.  To my delight, I found that I had all of the necessaries in my herb garden.

Just five herbs needed in roughly equal quantities, a small handful of each of yarrow (achillea), calendula flowers, mint, thyme and lemon balm.  Put into a large teapot, cover with boiling water and put the lid on.  Leave for at least 10 minutes and then pour.  It was surprisingly thirst quenching, tasty and uplifting and, I imagine, would also be lovely chilled. I think I may never buy another herbal tea bag.

20 May 2018

Six on Saturday: Mid May in the Veg Patch

Honey bee on chive flower

May is the token first month of summer and it's been a corker.  Everything that looked a teeny bit dismal in the middle of April has burst into life, seeds are germinating, bees are buzzing and it's a real pleasure to be outside in warm sunshine.  This is a novelty as I usually associate May with the sort of unpredictable weather that makes it hazardous to plant out beans and sweet corn that I've nurtured indoors. This year I've sown my sweetcorn seeds straight into the ground having seen last year that direct sowing produced much stronger plants than those I transplanted.

8 May 2015

Peering over the veg

This year I remembered not to get fooled by the warm weather we've had in April. I've done that in previous years and lost beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes to the strong May winds that can whip through between the flats here.  No, this year I decided to play it safe and bide my time to plant out my seedlings. Just as well because the garden has been absolutely lashed this past few days with winds gusting to 42 mph and bouts of torrential rain.

Yesterday morning I went to inspect the damage, notebook in hand. I still have a lot of over-wintered veg and herbs growing and I'd planted out a small tray of kale plants that I'd bought to fill the gap between my winter and spring sown kales. (I do eat a lot of kale!) It actually wasn't too bad - a snapped stem on the gooseberry bush, some damage to the kale plants and very bruised blossom on the quince. I'd recently bought a Tigerella tomato plant from the local City Farm, grown by a friend there. It was in the lee of my compost heap and had been well-hardened off so even that survived intact! Whew, what a relief! (My home grown toms are still safely indoors.)

I'm really enjoying a bit of seasonal eating.  Instead of having empty beds over winter, I've had brassicas, spinach and kale to eat - and baby chard too if wanted. Now that the broccoli plants have been cleared (just one left), the chard underneath is growing away. Two rows have become four as I've transplanted the runts of the litter into a space of their own. And just as the broccoli is fading, the asparagus appears. One stalk poked its head up days before the others so I picked that to steam with other veg. There's another 6 stalks ready now so I'll be looking forward to dinner tomorrow! This is the first year I've been able to pick any asparagus - does it work like sweet peas that the more you pick, the more you get?  Can anyone enlighten me, please?

The red russian kale is coming to an end (I'm going to miss its frilly green and purple leaves); instead I have more Cavolo Nero producing good sized leaves now and the beetroot I sowed last autumn is beginning to bulk up. I may pull a few small beets to allow the others more space although I rather like the burst of yellow that the Burpees Golden brings to the patch. Once I started thinking about dinner, I couldn't resist pulling a few carrots as well.  They were tiny but so so delicious.

I wasn't going to grow potatoes this year but there were some moochers from last year that sprouted so I've planted them up in a sack and we'll see what happens. So far it's all looking very promising. This is the growth since I earthed up to the very top a couple of weeks ago.

I have to confess that I've been a bit slack in getting on with my seed sowing. I think it's because I've had (and still have) plenty of veg in the garden so there's less urgency to refill the beds. Reading around other blogs it seems everyone else has got windowsills and greenhouses stuffed full of little plants waiting to go out. Not so here.  I have three trays - broad beans, tomatoes and brassicas with amaranth. Plus sweet peas for cutting. (Err, that makes four.) Today I'm going to spread the contents of my seed box across the floor, make a few decisions and get my hands dirty with soil. Once germinated, I should have seedlings to plant out by mid-June and received wisdom says that they'll catch up soon enough. That will hopefully give me time to figure out where I'm going to put  it all.

Hoping for some more good weather and wishing everyone a good gardening weekend!

3 Jun 2012

June, so soon?

I'm hugely relieved to have an extra day off work this weekend.  Dare I say that I won't be celebrating? Much as I think Her Maj is a wonderful, decent, long-suffering and hard-working woman, I have too much to do to make time for jollifications and revelry (never mind the ensuing hangover!).

Early morning veg patch
~ End of May veg patch; this quarter looking very lush in the sunshine! ~

My feet seem to have hardly hit the ground in May; between work and garden, my cup has indeed runneth well over (leading to many post-midnight bedtimes, so exhausting...). I've been potting on seedlings in the mini-greenhouse or starting them off, weeding in the veg garden and harvesting cauliflower sprouts, kale, cabbage, herbs; transplanting raspberry runners, moving strawberry plants, topping up raised beds (and potatoes in sacks) and filling large pots for overflow veg, squishing or squirting blackfly on the broad beans and fruit trees, and, finally, sowing flower and radish seeds outside - and, of course, watering, watering, watering.  More or less the same as every other gardener, I imagine!

So, apologies if this is boring and more to aid my memory than blog interest, a quick recap of where we're at in the little London veg patch:

Chilli in window
Chillies, capsicum and bell pepper seeds sown into modules at the beginning of April, two to a module, all germinated successfully and (because I hate to waste a perfectly good plant) all potted on successfully in mid-May into J. Arthur Bower's seed and potting compost (recommended by Which? garden as the top compost in their trials last year).  Total: 3 Purple Beauty bell peppers, 3 Orange bell peppers, 4 Chilli Corno di Torro Rosso, 1 Hot Banana chilli, 2 Chilli Guindilla Roja and 3 Hamik capsicum.  One way or another, it will be a hot summer!

Coral poppyPurple podded peas have gone out a few days ago; courgettes, sweetcorn, popcorn, mangetout, kidney beans and dwarf french beans to follow before the weekend is out.  The Lazy Housewife bean (growing in the safety of my balcony at the moment) is about 3 feet tall, much to my relief.  Borage seedlings have been planted out under the fruit trees, several Violet de Provence artichokes have gone in at the back of the walled border (yum, looking forward to eating those!) and radish seedlings have appeared amongst the broad beans only days after the seeds were sown.

Nasturtiums (3 varieties) are growing well, californian poppy seedlings have been set amongst the herbs, orach, calendula and geums are adding a pop of colour to the sea of green veg, and a Coral poppy bought last year is now looking very gorgeous - can't wait until the flowers unfurl as this will be the first year of flowering!

Cabbage heart My efforts of last year are still rewarding me: Hearted cabbage is still waiting to be eaten and I'm picking tender kale leaves for lunch and for the freezer as those plants look as though they'll flower soon. I've discovered a fabulous River Cottage recipe for kale: simmer the leaves with finely chopped garlic until soft, drain and chop finely, pile onto toast and adorn with shavings of parmesan. Quick and delicious!  One word of caution though - caterpillars!  I carefully picked over the leaves, then left them in a sinkful of water.  After about 10 minutes I found 8 tiny caterpillars at the bottom of the sink. A further soak in a water/cupful of vinegar mix netted another 4 caterpillar babies. And I thought I had good eyesight!

The perennial cauliflowers are a story in themselves and I'll post about them this week.  They've now spectacularly sprouted, some have flowered and look beautiful, others were covered in grey aphids so have been chopped back to the ground - and are beginning to resprout!

My teenager just asked if he could help me in the garden (think Bob a Job week, accelerated to millenium rates of pay).  After a quick think about what still needs to be done, I've said yes; despite what felt at times like re-enacting the Labours of Hercules in May, there's still a border to clear, 2 walled beds to dig over, strawberries to move, seedlings to be planted, bean towers to be built and 2 raised beds to be constructed and filled.  Yes, I will be more than happy to have his help ... I might yet stand a chance of enjoying a chilled glass of wine while standing back to watch the veg grow on a warm summer evening!

Enjoy the Jubilee folks - I'm off to celebrate being in the garden!

Cavolo Nero and Red Orach
I love the colours of the kale and red orach next to each other! 
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