Filling Up Fast
As we’re now in July, there are two noticeable differences on the allotment. Firstly night-time temperatures are rising and the risk of an overnight frost is reducing day by day. Secondly the plot is filling up fast, space is becoming a premium commodity - what we hope to be eating through the year is occupying what was until recently bare ground.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Right now the broccoli, cabbage and cauliflowers are well advanced, and they’ve been joined by Brussels Sprouts and Cavolo Nero (black kale). We’ve been busy eating the last of the Purple Sprouting, so I’ve made sure that we’ll have another crop later in the year, by sowing replacements from seed. We’ve also been eating radishes for about the last two weeks. Every time I go down to the plot, it seems that there are another load to be harvested, they’re such a great veg; quick to grow, and really minimal preparation. The lettuce alongside them, can be picked too, we’ve had one, but I’m letting the rest get a big bigger first. Beetroot and turnips have been sown and are coming along well. In another few weeks I’ll be sowing more of the same to make sure we have an uninterrupted supply throughout the summer months.
I’ve also got my courgette seeds in, and the runner beans and French climbing beans will follow at the end of the month. To add a bit of colour, I’ve also been sowing flower seeds. Dahlias and sunflowers are my two regular splashes of colour, as well as sweet peas for their scent and to be able to bring home a regular harvest of cut flowers.
May also heralds a round of building things. Cages, used to keep the bugs and the birds off of the plants that I’m growing. Each year I build a framework with netting around the soft fruit; gooseberries, loganberries and raspberries, to stop the birds making off with all of the fruit when they’re ripe. I don’t mind sharing, but they tend to gorge themselves silly, and not leave any for us!
I also build a netting frame around the brassicas. This is also to keep birds, pigeons mostly, from eating the crops, but also to prevent the cabbage white butterfly from laying her eggs on the plants as a ready food source for the caterpillars when they hatch. With these cages and a framework for runner beans and climbing beans, I become a dab-hand with bamboo canes and string by the beginning of June!
Always a Job to Do.
No matter what else is happening there are always little jobs to do too. As the broad beans are reaching the size where they have flowered and are setting their first pods, I pinch out the tops. The reason for this is twofold, if you get them in time it stops black fly taking over the plants and smothering them in black sticky insects. They’re attracted to the tops of the plants which are naturally sweet, no tops, no black fly. It also means that the plants put their energy into growing bean pods rather than being taller plants, makes for sweeter tasting beans when the time comes. Which looking at them should only be another week away!
There’s also plenty of weeding to do at this time of the year. As quickly as the plants that we want to eat grow, the ones we don’t, the weeds, grow just as fast, if not faster. They’ll compete for space, nutrients and water with the food crops, so they have to come out. Some can be hoed on a sunny day, when the temperature will take care of the cut weeds. The hoeing also tends to bring out Robins and Blackbirds. There are plenty of nests in the surrounding hedges and the hoeing disturbs the soil and insects that are living there. A week or so ago I had a visit from a Robin as I was hoeing, he was following me across the plot as I worked, picking up insects and taking them off to his nest, before returning to do the same again. At one point I stopped for a rest, and he came and sat on the blade of my hoe as I stood there. I’m sure he was nagging me to get on with working, and get him some more grub!
Once the weeding is done, the crops also need watering, particularly those that are recent editions and haven’t had a chance to establish themselves yet. So far this year we’ve been lucky with a good balance between sunshine and rain, which makes for great growing weather and means only one evening visit to the plot for watering. The rest of the time, I can simply enjoy it.
Plant of the Month.
It has to be the radish. As I’ve mentioned above they are the simplest and easiest veg to grow, even if you have no space, you could grow these in a pot on a window sill. When they’re ready to harvest you simply pull them from the soil, wash off any loose dirt, top and tail them and they’re good to eat. A great snacking vegetable or serve with a salad. Watch out though, if you’ve grown them right they should have a fiery taste to them.