Early June 2014
The last ten days of May have been almost sunless here keeping it cool and dark, so growth has slowed down, just at the wrong time for new plantings of beans, squash, courgette and tomato. These plants all need warm soil so fingers crossed for sunshine soon, otherwise their growth is weak and they are more vulnerable to slug damage. I am keeping on top of slugs but only just, with my torch and knife at dusk – this is too big an area to use nematodes.
Unfortunately the big summer slugs are now with us and whatever your preferred method of control, it needs to be full-on now.
May 2014 was warmer than 2013 but less sunny and wetter:
|Temp Max C||14.9||17|
|Temp Min C||4.9||8.5|
Sowing and weeding
June is another month of many possibilities for sowing, starting with swede now, either direct or more reliably in modules, two seeds thinned to the strongest, for planting late June. Beetroot sown any time in June will be big by late summer, carrots sown mid June are good for winter storage. They need clear space, part of or a whole bed, so that the tender, seedling leaves can grow without slugs chomping them, and again it is worth slug-hunting at dawn, dusk and in damp conditions by day. I have lost some carrot sowings this spring as there are just so many slugs around, and best germination has been where I spread a thin layer of rockdust on the surface after sowing, just 2-3mm.
Annual weeds have been rampant this spring with sufficient moisture for new seeds to keep germinating, and warmth to keep them growing. ‘Little and often’ weeding has worked well here with the main time of doing it in March and April, by scuffing the surfaces of my beds with hoe or rake to disturb tiny seedlings. Always look for small weed seedlings rather than waiting to notice them, by which time they have become a much bigger job to deal with.
Perennial weeds, unless you have mulched them, just need constant removal until their parent roots give up, except for bindweed and marestail which live forever it seems. I have noticed that my bindweed is less vigorous than last year though.
Early summer harvests
Summer vegetables are cropping in late spring this year, its really exciting. First early potatoes are coming reasy, shown by yellowing of bottom leaves and soon the whole plantt goes pale and loses vigour. Second earlies will be ready by late June at this rate, good timing for subsequent plantings of leek, kale etc.
Broad beans are two to three weeks ahead of normal and thanks to this they have a long period in which to fill their pods, as opposed to last year when they matured in the heat of early July and quickly grew large and firm. There is so much choice about when you can pick them, some like them small as peas and eat the pods too, while my preference is for larger beans which become creamy and richly flavoured for a good week before they turn starchy. Its a similar story for peas, so you just have to keep sampling them to check on taste and sweetness!
Remember to earmark a plant or two for seed, then leave it unpicked until pods go dark and dry, usually by August, depending when they were sown.
Making liquid feeds
This is an optional extra if you have comfrey or nettle leaves in particular. I have put a lot of nettles to decompose in a butt which, in about four weeks, I shall tip on its side to drain off the liquid.
Polytunnel after clearing, composting and planting for summer
May has been a big changeover time undercover as winter salads finish and summer plants go in. In between clearing and planting I spread two to three inches of compost, feeding soil for both summer and winter cropping, with no other feed or fertiliser except a small amount of liquid nettle in late July and early August mostly.
More plantings undercover
There is still time to plant basil, cucumber, pepper, chilli, melon and aubergine as long as plants are of a reasonable size.
Outdoor plantings of warmth-loving veg – hurry!
There is still time to plant climbing beans, courgette, squash for summer and winter, sweetcorn, tomato, cucumber. If the weather is windy or cool, some fleece can help them establish.
There are more than usual after the lack of frost and gentle warmth. I was shocked to find caterpillares eating the growing points of pea plants (for shoots) in my polytunnel, I hope they do not migrate outdoors. Woodlice are tricky, making lots of serrations and best remedy is simply waiting for plants to grow away from their nibbling.
It turns out that they are probably the worst ever this year. A local school is investing a five figure sum in nematodes to save its playing fields and grassy borders. I do have lettuce growing now but it has invvolved a lot of replanting after fishing out the fat larvae under dying plants. Soon the larvae will be pupating and the rest of the year will be clear of them but I am unsure whether the parental craneflies may lay eggs again, and hope that now the old pasture roots are decomposed they won’t.