Monday 6 June 2022

The vegetable beds in early June

Similar to last year, Spring presented some tricky conditions for germinating seeds: a  mixture of a long dry spell and cold conditions with some late frosts.

We had a bountiful harvest of asparagus as usual but have picked the final batch of the year. Any stems that sprout now will be left to grow and produce their ferny foliage for future feasts. Next to the asparagus are some rows of bulbs for cut flowers. We have enjoyed some miniature daffodils and tulips and later on there will be different varieties of gladioli.

The onions, some seed sown in late winter, others planted as sets in the Spring, are coming along fine. These are mainly the reliable Sturon, but also some red onions. We don't grow so many of these as they have a greater tendency to bolt and don't store so well. We are still working through last year's crop of onions and they will hopefully see us through to the next crop. I also grow shallots but now only grow the banana shallots which are very useful for cooking. Not being fans of pickled onions I don't bother with the usual types of shallots.

I didn't plant out the pumpkins (Crown Prince) until June was underway. The Butternut Squash did not germinate at all which is a shame as these make such a good contribution in the kitchen over winter. There's still time to sow again if I get cracking. Courgettes were also delayed until June for planting out. A mixture of green and yellow. The yellow ones I find are more prolific.

I always grow a row of tomatoes outdoors and these are obviously slower to fruit compared to the greenhouse grown tomatoes. Outdoors we have San Mazano, a plum tomato. These will be largely turned into passata.

Along side we have a large block of sweet corn (Swift) which always produces a good crop for us. I have planted out four, twenty foot rows with the plants spaced one foot apart. They provide some useful protection for tomato plants too once they get underway.

Tricky parsnips next. I usually sow these fairly late as they don't like cold, damp conditions (nor hot, dry conditions) and are notoriously slow to germinate. I'm still waiting for them to surface.

Another Winter staple which needs a long growing season is leeks. Two rows of dependable Musselburgh are growing well now they have been transplanted into their respective rows.

The brassica section, fully netted as is essential, comes next. Brussel sprouts (Crispa), cabbage (Greyhound) a red cabbage variety and broccoli. Cauliflower (All the year round) are yet to be planted out. These all have to have a dedicated weeding session because of the rigmarole involved in accessing the ground because of the netting. Overall, they are still worth the effort. 

The adjacent plot starts at the top end with Jerusalem artichokes which we enjoy from time to time over Winter, but this row of vigorous, tall-growing plants also forms a dense annual hedge which serves as a protective barrier for the rest of the plot. 

There is a row of garlic planted last autumn. It should be ready for cropping soon. I have consistently had a poor garlic crop each year but as we use some much of it in our cooking I'll persevere. We'll see how this year's fares. 

I have previously posted about the potato varieties. These take up a decent sized chunk of the plot and we are fortunate to have the space to grow different varieties and as well as in quantity. We had a poorer crop than usual last year because we were affected by blight. Yet we still have enough to see us through which is what we aim for.

Like the butternut squash, the beans were patchy in their gemination and I have had to re-sow some. The runner beans (White Emperor - which we grow each year - and also Streamline - which I have not grown before). French beans (dwarf and climbing) will be delayed and borlotti beans I will probably omit this year now. I have planted extra runner beans and will use these for dry beans over the Winter instead. No problems with the broad beans which seem to be able to take whatever weather comes their way. I will be harvesting the first of these any day now. We'll eat lots of them fresh and also have a good supply to freeze for future use.

In the salad section spring onions are growing well. They look so fragile when sprouting in pots or modules but once planted out they thicken up in no time. Lettuce I have had to sow a couple of times because of mixed germination, so a little later than usual for the first crops. What else? Beetroot, fennel, chantenay carrots and other things to come.They are planted here in short rows and are mainly those vegetables that are best for successional sowing.

The bottom end of this plot is where the berry fruits are grown: raspberries, black currants, red  currants, gooseberries and blackberries. There is also rhubarb. In our sandy soil its not one to romp away as it does in many others' vegetable gardens but it does well enough. We have a row of autumn fruiting raspberries whose management is rather different from the summer fruiting varieties. This seemed to be running out of steam insofar as  they have become gradually less prolific. In one area nettles have found their way in and I have never been able to fully eradicate them. I decided  to remove the raspberry bushes and start again, possibly with something else. Not being in any particular hurry, I have followed the approach advocated by the emulators of 'No Dig'. The recalcitrant nettles have been cut back. I have covered the four foot by twenty foot strip with cardboard (not black plastic, I might add) and topped it up with four to six inches of compost. I'll take a look a year from now.

Elsewhere there is the greenhouse, which is fully planted up with tender cropping plants, and a herb corner. The fruit trees, many of which are still relatively young, look to be setting fruit. We are expecting a big crop from our biennial fruiting walnut tree, but are unlikely to beat the squirrels to the hazel nuts.

Keeping the weeds at bay is an on-going task but for now they vegetable plots are enjoying the rain.

Still early days for the greenhouse , but here are some photos:-

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