June 2008


Updates from June 2008.

The Food Garden in June.

Although the term ‘Flaming June’ is often heard, another old saying is often more apt – ‘A dripping June keeps all in tune’.
It refers, historically, to farm crops such as wheat and barley, but is also mostly true for fruit and vegetables which, growing fast at this time of year, take much benefit from June’s frequent rainfall. One hopes that there is plenty of warmth to go with the rain, to enable healthy growth of heat-hungry plants such as french and runner beans, courgettes, squashes, tomatoes and cucumbers. In any cold, grey weather they will struggle, through no fault of the gardener.

Lettuce mid May.

Lettuce mid May.

Another weather-related issue which may arise at month’s end is potato blight, should it rain consistently when day temperatures are around twenty degrees. If plants become infected with rapidly spreading brown patches, it is best to cut the stems close to ground level and compost the diseased haulm, then harvest potatoes as you need them. Don’t worry about blight surviving in a compost heap as the spores do not endure on dead material. The compost I spread around my polytunnel tomatoes has often been made from some blighted leaves and stems.

Around mid June I sow many winter brassicas such as kale, savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts. This is later than often recommended but works well here to allow some avoidance of early caterpillars. Plants of these brassicas, raised in modules or seedbeds, can also be grown as a second crop after broad beans, garlic or early salad.

Lettuce in mid May, sown January, should crop until July. My second crop of lettuce was sown in late May and will be planted by mid June, to crop from Mid July to September.

Autumn sown broad beans should be cropping throughout June and can be harvested initially as young mangetout pods, or later as older pods with beans of varying size and ripeness. I find that beans of the variety Aquadulce Claudia become sweeter and creamier as they mature and often taste best when quite large and almost starchy. The joy of having your own garden is the ability to harvest crops at the stage when you like them most.

Dug bed on left, undug on right, planted identically, 30th May.

Dug bed on left, undug on right, planted identically, 30th May.

From now on, think about where gaps will become available and aim to have some plants or seeds ready to fill them. Late June is an excellent time to plant the leeks which you sowed in April and will have become almost as thick as a pencil. It is often recommended to plant them deep, in order to have more white stem which is sweeter than green stem, but they may not grow so well if you plant their roots too deep into poorer soil. On my beds I make holes about four inches (10cm) deep with a wooden dibber, at a spacing of 6×15” (15x37cm).

June is the best month for pruning stone fruit such as apricot, plum and peach, so that rapid re-growth can prevent fungal infection of the cut branches. This year I have noticed many less fruit than last year on these trees, which will be good for plums at least as a heavy set necessitates thinning of fruit to avoid branches breaking and small, immature plums.

Weed wise, do keep your plot as clean as possible, even where vegetables such as courgettes and potatoes are tending to overshadow new growth. Weeds growing under their leaves can still flower and set lots of new seed which will then hinder future sowings and plantings. It may be tempting to pretend that all is well when your favoured food plants are racing ahead of small numbers of innocent looking weeds, but don’t underrate them!

The bed on left was dug and manure incorporated, bed on right is undug and has the same manure on top, planting is identical, photo late May.
My dig/no dig experiment is showing some interesting variations – and similarities – in growth. Comparing beds mulched with compost or horse manure on top to those where it has been dug in, reveals, in the dug beds, lower yields of lettuce and spinach, similar growth of peas and beetroot, more weeds germinating and more cracking in dry weather. I have ongoing records of all harvests and will publish them at year’s end.

Charles Dowding.