This year I have tried to be more organised with regard to my productive garden (as well as my flower garden). I even tried to think about succession planting for once – I know that anyone with an interest in growing their own should do this as a matter of course, but I am not the most organised person and I leave the planning for my day job (or so I tell myself).
This year’s master plan was to sow some dwarf broad beans (var. Sutton) early in the year and hope to harvest them in June. The idea being that this would then make room for my French beans in the small bed at the bottom of the garden. I started them off in February and planted them out at the end of March. They grew quite well (some in the bed, some in a tub) and flowered a lot – as shown in the photo. However, the beans themselves seemed to take an age to grow – I harvested some in the middle of the month, but these were in the tub which still remains empty in the vain hope that I can get a courgette to grow and get a late crop; and the bed remained quite full – see picture below. I finally pulled the rest out last weekend – they were taking over and all of the salad leaves I had planted had gone quite leggy and had mainly been eaten during the damp weather. I planted out some more French beans as I think the prolific foliage of the broad beans had held some of them back, but I had already planted out my aubergines (new for this year for me), tomatoes and courgettes. Therefore, other than the aforementioned beans and some very healthy-looking (i.e. not yet ready to harvest) garlic, I think that it will be some more salad crops for the next month or two in this bed. The sad thing is that the crop of beans was nothing to shout about – there were on average 3 beans per pod and about 4-8 pods per plant – hardly an abundance. I have decided to give broad beans a miss next year.
As you can see from the photo of the bed at the bottom of the garden, my mizuna bolted in the warm May sun (as did the rocket), but I got several salads out of them before I pulled them up. I am not sure if pulling the mizuna up was a cunning plan as it was growing quite well, but was getting leggy. I have some more in pots amongst the tomatoes and courgettes, and some in modules waiting to replace them, so, for the first year ever I think I have had a modicum of success in the realm of salad leaves. I know they are supposed to be easy to grow, but I always seem to kill them off – usually by forgetting to water them.
On the positive side the soft fruits are having a better year this year. Due to some mis-timed pruning last year we had zero blackcurrants – a fact that James is eternally ashamed of. However, he resisted the temptation to get the secateurs out this year and we were rewarded with about a pound of currants harvested a couple of weeks ago. This is also the second year that we have had the gooseberry (var. Invicta) in the front garden and it is the second year that it appears to have avoided the attentions of sawfly. It seems to enjoy the extra sun and warmth of the front of the house, the crop this year (again harvested a couple of weeks ago) was about 3lb – about three times larger than last year. Not bad considering that when it was in the back garden we never got more than 6 berries!
Just a quick update about the garden. First the bad news: Pak Choi , all eaten, brassicas, almost all gone, coriander and parsley – just about holding on – all the victim of slugs and snails.
On the positive side, the chillis are still growing well, and the blackberry has been prolific, providing lots of great opportunities to improve my bee photography skills, the first of the berries have just started to blush.
The French beans and courgettes have managed to survive various slug attacks and the beans are starting to flower.
I have popped a few chard plants in the back garden which I have grown from seed as the ones I sowed directly do not seem to have grown. We will see if they survive a rainy night and a visit from Mr Slug and his army of friends. This is in contrast to the front garden where three of the chard seeds that I planted have grown well and survived the ravages of wind, rain and the aforementioned slugs. I decided to grow rainbow chard after seeing them growing every winter at Ryton Organic Gardens, unfortunately, I have never tasted it, never cooked it and am not sure what I am going to do with it. Still, I have popped a few more seeds in and am hoping it will brighten the front garden in the gloomy winter months.
This is just a quick update on the produce in my garden. Following on from last year’s disaster, I have already had some minor success.
After living in a pot for a couple of years whilst we relandscaped the back garden, the blackcurrant bush has grown well, survived aphid attacks and has yielded about 1 lb of blackcurrants. We are going to freeze some of them and others will no doubt end up in blackcurrant muffins (I will post a recipe at a later date if any of you are interested). The variety that we grow, for no reason other than it looked healthy when we bought it over 5 years ago from the garden centre, is Ben Sarek. I have included a picture to prove they exist (and in case we don’t get any next year).
The gooseberry has been attacked by sawfly for two years, so we are giving it one final chance this year and have relocated it to the front of the house. It has one solitary gooseberry, but, so far no sawfly devastation. Hopefully it will continue that way.
The garlic that I planted in December is having mixed fortunes. Those planted in the front garden are doing wonderfully well and have some of the thickest stems I have seen, the 3 cloves that I put in the back are looking a bit sad and weedy. I think it will be time to harvest them before long.
My courgettes are also doing OK (although the ones I gave to my mother-in-law appear to be twice the size) and the first flowers appeared on Thursday on both the one in the ground and the one in a pot. This is a big relief as they failed completely last year, being annihilated by slugs soon after planting. This variety is Partenon which I have grown before, fruits early and is self fertile so should be fine whatever the weather.
I have also planted out some pak choi and my beans as well as some either cauliflowers or cabbage that I was given (Colin couldn’t remember which was which). Radish (which are supposed to be easy to grow) have benefited from me making the effort to thin them out and I finally have some carrots coming up in containers. However, I am particularly pleased with some rainbow chard in the front garden and my chillis in the back garden which are already fruiting. (I will share the secret of my success once they have ripened.)