June 2010


Updates from June 2010.

Growing vegetables in June

More sowing, watering, hoeing, planting and gathering some delicious first harvests. A great month for growing.

Harvesting

Depending how your sowing and plant raising went, you may expect to pick some peas, broad beans, chard, beetroot, small carrots, early potatoes, over-wintered onions and herbs such as dill, as the month progresses, and to continue harvests of cabbage, radish, spinach, lettuce and salad onions. There may even be some courgettes and calabrese by month’s end.

I find that the first harvest of every vegetable is really exciting and the flavours often surpass expectations. Beetroot in June are something special, even better than they taste for the rest of the year. Some of the mouth watering quality has to do with freshness and the flavours of root vegetables are especially heightened by eating them within hours of picking.

Right at the end of June there may be some garlic ready to carefully trowel out, once about half of its leaves are yellow. Don’t wait for the whole top growth to die off, or bulbs will have started to lose their outer skin. Whole plants can be pulled when green and fresh garlic is milder than older bulbs, yet another of June’s culinary highlights.

Sowing

Top garden in late May, leaf lettuce in foreground

Top garden in late May, leaf lettuce in foreground

For me, June is a busy sowing month because I have delayed some sowings which could have been done in May, in order to have plants later, to make second plantings in late June and July after ground is cleared of early lettuce, spinach, radish, spring cabbage, overwintered broad beans, early potatoes, beetroot etc.

Sowings in the month’s first half include kale, savoy and white cabbage, purple sprouting, chicory for forcing, and also lettuce for cropping through the second half of the season, from late July to early October.

Sowings in June’s second half include carrots and beetroot for winter harvests, dwarf and runner beans for late summer picking and bulb fennel.

Planting

Orchard in late May, newly planted squash in front

Orchard in late May, newly planted squash in front

Leeks want planting now, of plants any size really: small ones get away more quickly, and need watering in only once, whereas large plants need a second and third watering at about three day intervals if it is hot and dry, to help them establish.

There is still time to plant courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweetcorn and squashes, as soon as possible; also brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and purple sprouting for winter harvests.

Hoeing and weeding

Dig / no dig experiment in late May, undug bed in front, dug bed is second, then undug, then dug. Observe the huge difference in growth of onions, all planted on the same day.

Dig / no dig experiment in late May, undug bed in front, dug bed is second, then undug, then dug. Observe the huge difference in growth of onions, all planted on the same day.

Do not neglect this VITAL JOB. Weeding practised regularly when weed seedlings are small is far easier, and results in cleaner soil which is then much quicker and more pleasurable to keep tidy, with no weeds going to seed. Any dry day in June is good for hoeing, although perennial weeds such as dandelion, dock, couch grass and bindweed want trowelling out to remove the a few inches of their deep roots.

Repeating this every week or fortnight with couch grass can see it disappear eventually, but bindweed rarely succumbs. However, continual removal of its leaves with some root does lead to slower and less invasive growth over time.

Watering

Undug bed in front, dug bed behind, lettuce and spinach already harvested several times; no dig parsnips growing faster at this stage.

Undug bed in front, dug bed behind, lettuce and spinach already harvested several times; no dig parsnips growing faster at this stage.

This weather dependent job is best done weekly rather than daily, thoroughly soaking soil to a few inches depth. Roots then go deeper for moisture which is burnt off less quickly in any hot sun.

If you have mulched, this helps conserve moisture, but sooner or later some extra water will be required if growth is to be sustained (unless it rains), as opposed to plants just surviving and not making new growth.

I find that undug soil is much easier to water than dug soil, from the experience of watering the four beds of my experiment, where the dug beds’ soil tends to become smeared by water which then runs off it and downhill away from the plants.

16 June update

Summer is about to begin, officially, and it looks tricky here for soil moisture.
Since April 4th, soils have been gradually drying out as only 90mm (3.6”) of rain has fallen, instead of the usual 210mm in this period, at the same time as frequent, keen and drying north winds have sucked moisture out of soil and leaves.

Vegetable growth has been steady and of high quality with little mildew on leaves and less slug damage than usual. But I am harvesting smaller than usual cauliflowers, broad bean pods are less plump than I would hope and I have been watering all the salad and garlic beds.

Fortunately my soil is well protected by being undug, and by a residual inch (2.5cm) or so of cow manure or compost on top. The manure has weathered to a lovely soft, humus rich mulch.

Yet sooner or later, however much mulch there is, plants will suck the free moisture out of soils and be in need of rain to make more growth. I am hoping for some storms after the full moon on 26th June. Nothing before that I think – good for Glastonbury festival.

Courgette plants on 16 June

Courgette plants on 16 June

Courgettes have raced away in the spring sunshine. They were planted just after the frost of May 12th, under fleece for a fortnight, and we have been picking some fine little courgettes.

Spring planted salad onions are a good size and all the alliums look well. I just trowelled out some swelling bulbs of wet garlic for a local restaurant and they are huge, though not yet fully developed.

By next week there will be sugar peas, carrots and new potatoes. The first and second early potatoes look extremely healthy and are beginning to flower, but are three weeks behind last year when there was no spring frost. Strawberries are late as well, along with all other plants which overwintered in the frequent frosts. Whereas many spring sowings are maturing a little earlier than usual.

Tall sugar peas 16 June, planted early April from March  sowing in modules

Tall sugar peas 16 June, planted early April from March sowing in modules

Birds are being typically annoying at this time of year. Broad beans have to be netted or rooks eat them all, while blackbirds are really determined to peck or wriggle through any netting around soft fruit. They also kick into the mulched soil in search of worms, making quite large holes, not as destructive as hens though, who remain in their run all year round.