The joy of first harvests, spacings and intersowing, insect covers, planting through mulches, compost heaps and our show garden.
After the cool winds of May, June is my favourite month for offering so many new and tasty vegetables to pick, as we come out of the hungry gap. You have choices too, between picking small pods and roots or bigger ones; I harvested some broad beans last week and they made a meal, but I prefer the flavour when larger. My first beetroot are on the menu for Wednesday’s course here.
Things are hotting up in every way, the weather, new harvests, more to sow and plant. Beans and cucurbits now, carrots and beetroot all month, broccoli for next spring, salads for summer – many possibilities.
You can ‘create’ more space by sowing and planting between existing crops, especially garlic whose upright habit makes it easy. One snag though is that crop covers are not possible to use and my beetroot seedlings were eaten by sparrows.
I put a photo here of swede seedlings after a question on the forum about what size plants to use. You can plant them smaller or larger and the image is of average plant size.
If you are creating a great allotment, why not enter this national competition to find the “best one”?
How much space to allow between plants and rows? There are so many possible figures according to whether you want lots of small harvests or fewer large ones, how fertile your soil is, how moist it is, and how you harvest.
In the two beds of my dig/no dig experiment, I cram in as much as possible and you can see the abundant results, but I do not plant space-hungry courgettes or Brussels sprouts on these beds, and concentrate mostly on fast maturing ones. Broad beans are tricky as they like room to develop and you can see there are more pods on the beans in a different area where they have lots of room.
Spacings for soft fruit came up on the forum and I put the two photos of mine to show an extreme of giving them plenty of room. In the photo with raspberries there are only four plants, they spread so fast. Soon I shall place netting over the blackcurrants and gooseberries to keep blackbirds out.
I have not often grown much kohlrabi and saw some tempting red ones in a Bingenheimer seed catalogue. They are biodynamic seeds from Germany and we are looking at ways to purchase them more easily because so far, results are impressive. The kohlrabi are tender and sweet, even my 17 year old son likes them, lightly boiled. I shall report more as the season unfolds.
Taunton Deane, perennial kale continues to grow steadily and the plants shown below are in their third year of cropping.
Lettuce is in its glory season now of high quality leaves. The photo is one of a new type called Salanova, which make many small leaves, designed for one cut. I am experimenting with picking their outer leaves, am intrigued to see how long they keep growing.
The season of insects is here, in fact I already squashed a green caterpillar on a cabbage heart. But the butterfly season begins mostly after mid month, while carrot root flies are probably around already.
I recommend covering susceptible plants with mesh rather than fleece, because its stronger and less liable to suffer holes, and allows more light and moisture through. Also fleece can get too hot in summer. See the colour difference in lettuce leaves below…
Fine black netting is possible too but needs a support, whereas I find that mesh works when simply laid on top of plants.
Mulching for weed control
When clearing ground of much couch grass, marestail and bindweed, its worth leaving polythene mulches in place and planting through them. Mypex works well and can be reused many times, but is expensive. I am using old polythene from a farm and planting potatoes, courgettes and squashes in cut holes, finding lots of field bindweed in the process. Through the summer I watch for and pull any new bindweed to continue weakening the parent roots.
May has been changeover time undercover, from winter salads to summer fruits and leaves. Grenoble Red lettuce has been amazing, giving abundant harvests until now from plants sown last September, almost nine months ago.
I spread 2-3 inches of well rotted cow manure on the beds after twisting out the bolting salad plants. That is feed for the whole year, both summer and winter crops, with no liquid feeds for tomatoes. For me its quicker to apply compost, but liquid feeds are needed if you grow in containers.
Heaps are filling fast. I use an axe to chop brassica stems, after cutting the more tender growth with a sharp spade. I am short of brown ingredients and scrounge old straw from a neighbour, and any cardboard going to waste.
Heaps get hot now but heat is not vital for making good compost, and my heap made in winter is maturing nicely, after being turned in March.
Beautiful show garden
Steph and I made a great pop-up garden at the Bath and West show, which attracted much interest. The plants are mostly in pots so after emptying the garden, we can now plant them properly! Interestingly as we dismantled the garden on May 31st, we noticed how plants had rooted strongly into the soil and compost with a half inch (1cm) new growth in five days.
Many gardeners were interested in oca and yacon which want planting now. Also with how much we had planted, yet leaving many more gaps than in most show gardens which are for demo only, the spacings were almost realistic!