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!
I am very excited – it does not take much I know – anyone who has spoken to me about bees will realise this. However, the reason for the excitement is my gooseberry bush (Invicta). Although it is a bit early to be picking them, we are getting our windows replaced tomorrow and I am worried they would be knocked off.
Why so excited. Well, prior to this year, the biggest harvest we have had was a massive 6 gooseberries. This year I have over half a kilo! Moving the plant to the front of the house and putting it next to the rosemary also seems to have distracted the sawfly for this year at least – all the leaves are pretty much intact. I just have to work out how to prune them now.
I have also picked the first sweet peas of the year – not many, but I am experimenting by putting them in the front garden, the plants in the back do not seem to be showing much sign of flowering yet, so this also seems to be paying off. Next year I need to find some nice looking supports so I can put them all in the front garden.
So, what has happened in the last 7 days or so? It would appear to be quite a lot, other than a rather exciting ash cloud that has managed to reduce the carbon output of Europe and leave all those planes on the ground.
Firstly, or rather lastly, on Saturday I first heard, and then saw, my first housemartin of the year. They were fairly high up and did not stick around for long, so I think they may have been on their way to elsewhere rather than birds returning to hang about in Dav.
I saw the housemartin whilst sitting in the garden watching bees. You may have noticed that there is a lot of blossom about at the moment, not only is the blackthorn still flowering, but there are cherry blossoms on almost every housing estate, and, along with the blossom there are the associated bees. The main attraction in our garden at the moment as far as bees are concerned is the blue Pulmonaria Trevi Fountain as evidenced by cette photo la, with rather lovely bumblebee attached. Also out in numbers this week have been the native two and seven spot ladybirds, as yet though, there are no harlequins that I have seen.
In terms of wild flowers that are out at the moment, one of my favourites is the forget-me-not. James calls these devil flowers, because they self seed everywhere. Indeed the one in the picture found its own way into the front garden. Has anyone ever planted a forget-me-not, or do they ‘just appear’?
On the garden front, I am pleased to report that the gooseberry has loads of flower buds on. I am hoping that the sawfly don’t find where we’ve hidden it and that our huge rosemary will help disguise it – fingers crossed! I have also planted my courgette seeds and french bean seeds, ready for planting out in a couple of months.
The warm weather in the last week has allowed everything to put on a big growth spurt and left me with decision as to whether it is time to give them their independence and allow them to leave the safety of their home as they know it and plant my veg out. Â I took the picture below a week ago and they look even better now.
There is part of me thinks that they are doing so well it is time they were allowed a bit more room, but the other part is filled with anxiety about the dreaded slugs. Last year all my beans and sweetcorn went in the first week, and it is a miracle that the courgette didn’t follow. Then there is the worry that I am leaving it too late (although Monty Don claims not to plant his beans out until June). I think I will leave it to the weekend, then I can keep a watch over them – I can’t leave it much longer as the courgettes have flower buds coming. So this weekend I resolve to plant out the courgettes, sweetcorn, beans and tomatoes.
We planted the potatoes a week ago, we are trying Charlotte (an old favourite and the only one we have grown before), Mimi (being trialled on Gardener’s World) and Shetland Black (bought them and enjoyed them from Waitrose), the Shetland Blacks are growing already!
Another surprise in the garden this week has been the appearance of the first fruit on the gooseberry.Â Â The joy from this has been tempered somewhat by the discovery by my better half that the sawfly larvae are back and munching away the leaves. My better half has kindly checked every leaf and removed a goodly quantity which are now imprisoned and probably going to become bird food! Does everyone have such lazy birds, I have fed them all year round and now, unless their dinner is served up to them, they don’t seem to be interested! I may make them work for their food in future!
Today I decided that I had better get on with sowing some of the seeds that I had planned to do last weekend. So in went the courgettes, two types of beans (blauhilde and hildora), some sweetcorn and cavolo nero (I have never grown this last one before so it will definitely be a case of trial and error).
Following on from my four carrot success of last year, we have put some seeds in a smaller pot this year and are trying our hands at growing them as baby veg. I have also started some salad leaves and radish off. All of these are things I want to try succession planting to try and prolong the season.
I also took the plunge and decided to pot on some tomatoes that I started off last month. I am trying coir pots this time so that I am less likely to kill them off when they get into their final pots.
Other things that seem to be growing OK at the moment are the gooseberry (lots of flower buds already, but I am checking for sawfly infestations daily after the wipeout that was last year) and the blackcurrant (it has finally been put back in the ground after being held in a pot for a couple of years whilst we relandscaped the back garden). Of more concern is the blackberry (oregon thornless) which we kept in a pot for too long due to delays in the aforementioned landscaping and which does not show many signs of life yet (but I live in hope).
I need to plant the seed potatoes soon as they are well chitted, but every time I look at the weather forecast there is some frost expected. They are going in tubs, so should be better protected, so they will be going in next weekend, whatever the weather.