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!
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.)
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!