The Garden in June

I’ve planted out my squash, courgettes and beans.

A colleague gave me the courgette seeds. He says – despite their ugly appearance – they are the best tasting he’s ever grown. The variety is Rugosa Fruilana.

The winter squash are mainly Uchiki Kuri. These bright orange onion squash are perfect for small families or single people. They also store well.

Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins
Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins aka Uchiki Kuri

The other three are leftover seed – Candy Roaster and  Hungarian Blue. They’ve been plonked on the remains of the old compost heap in the far corner of the garden.

I have winter cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and kaibroc which still need a cage erected to protect them from the pigeons and cabbage white butterflies.

I will also sow some Cavolo Nero/Black Kale soon for winter.

I’ve had amazing 100% germination rates for borlotti beans from seed saved by my friend Di. I’ve also sowed some May Beans that I cadged from the Garden Organic heritage seed library via the Norfolk Organic Group.

Climbing beans ready to be planted out

I’m also growing Violet de cosse, Czar runners and Greek Gigantes beans – all climbers. The first producing purple french beans. The other two mainly butter type beans for drying.

I swore I wouldn’t grow tomatoes this year – too much trouble watering them but somehow I have ended up with a dozen or so – from friends. Green Derby, Roma and Baby Plum. They’ll go outside once the broad beans are finished against the warm wall.

Lemon Verbena, Purple Sage and French Tarragon

My cuttings have done well. Easy if you follow a YouTube video. Next up are pelargoniums.

More ruby chard, parsnip and beetroot seed has been sown.

Celeriac seedlings have gone in.

They’ll need regular watering if they are to come to anything.

The real success story are the globe artichokes – last year they were just getting established and yielded only a few. But they’re prolific right now and quite early. A joy to eat with a thick mustard vinaigrette.

 

Soon it’ll be time to sow winter veg like endive, mustard greens and lettuce as well as red chicory.

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Perennial Vegetables

As I looked around the garden recently I became aware of how dependent I am on vegetables that come back year after year.

Rhubarb has magically sprung up over the last month or so with its huge scalloped leaves creating a dramatic edge to the main vegetable garden.

It’s  accompanied by delicate clumps of  chives in the gravel path which have just started to bud and will soon break out into spiky purple flower heads.

Next to them are four thriving artichoke plants. I was given the slips by a friend, Julie, a couple of years ago and last year we had our first real crop. I will divide them next March and give some away.

Stridolo or bladderwort in the foreground has paired up with another perennial – artichoke.  The new strawberry bed was under the fleece to the left of the picture but that has now been removed!

And then between the artichokes and some gooseberries is a stand of sorrel which never fails at this time of year.

The other side of the garden is a bed of five year old asparagus which has been cropping for the past couple of years. It should last another fifteen or twenty as long as it’s kept well weeded and mulched and the thuggish horseradish next door doesn’t move in and take over!

All of these plants are perennials and they provide a much needed bridge between the winter veg and the new season’s sowings which won’t really yield much until June.

There are a good few self sown plants which are providing us with food – the wild rocket is flourishing since it turned a little warmer. Coriander has surprised me by establishing itself with no effort on my part. Parsley is so prolific I’ve been potting up unwanted plants and giving it away.

The apple and pear trees are in full blossom and a thornless blackberry’s been heavily pruned and then trained along a rough home-made hazel trellis.

The new strawberry bed looks pretty healthy and a few flowers are heralding the possibility of some fruit in this first year. I’m currently trying to decide whether to mulch with straw or not.

On the annuals front there are lots of seedlings ready to take the place of veg like ruby chard and oriental mustard that’s bolting and going to seed. I have a great selection of squash including my favourite Uchiki Kuri or red Hokkaido Kuri, and hundreds of pricked out celeriac – many of which I will give away.

A colleague has given me the seeds of a yellow lumpy courgette, variety rugosa fruilana. Apparently – despite it’s ugly warty appearance – it is delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

I have been given tomato seedlings by a couple of generous friends – Roma from Janet who’s also given me peppers and some tenderstem broccoli to try out. The others were heirloom varieties from Caroline down the road – who runs a community garden in Great Yarmouth.

My leek seedlings are looking good – they will be planted in shallow clumps of four or five rather than singly in deep holes.

So for the time being all I really have left to do is sow my beans which will go in home made potting compost over the next week or so.

 

 

 

 

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Spring Clean

What a fantastic day!

Blue skies. Quiet neighbours. Time to spread compost made this winter on the vegetable beds and remake the heap for more.

Also a brilliant opportunity to tidy up.

We removed the fleece for the day and found claytonia/miners lettuce, chinese mustard leaves, lettuce, red chicory, and rather small chard. All the leaves are really taking off with the warm weather.

The self sown forget-me-nots have not flowered yet – perfect time to hoe them out and include them on the new heap along with duckweed from the pond and other unwanteds like dead nettle and wild mustards and a couple of thistles and groundsel.

It was hard physical work emptying the compost heap and remaking it – layering the weeds with half made compost from my two black dalek bins.

 

This was moved to the main heap

 

 

There were lots of tiger worms in evidence – a good sign.

The heap has also had some wood ash and urine sprinkled through it as well as half rotted leaves.

Some of that was very wet and slimy so I included a few layers of ripped up cardboard and old newspaper.

 

 

 

A bit further down in the garden towards the orchard and other compost heaps there are plenty of good things to eat.

This took about two or three weeks to force. I’ll pick it tomorrow to stew and eat fresh. Some of the other crowns are still almost dormant – but when they get going I’ll make rhubarb and lemon chutney.

These garlic chive seed heads should naturally self sow and will come back elsewhere nearby – you can also propagate clumps by division.

The ruby chard is still glowing along along with nearby clumps of snowdrops that light up this shady area of the garden.

I harvested the purple sprouting broccoli and some winter salad leaves – I shared some with Rebekah who helped me this morning.

I was pleasantly exhausted after five hours in the garden – so much so I had a cheeky pint of homemade cider to refresh myself when I’d finished!

Seeds update:

I’ll do a proper post next time – but so far radish in modules are germinating well.

Calabrese also reaching for the light and the first Greyhound Cabbage is through.

But no sign of the spinach.

The lettuce looks as if it’s “damping off” – I think I overwatered it and it’s going mouldy on the surface of the compost. I might have to sow some more!

You win some – you lose some!

Mustard Leaves – good stir fried or pickled in salty brine

 

 

 

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Sowing seed

February always surprises me – it’s technically still winter but light levels have increased a lot since the winter solstice.

Sunrise is at 7 am and and it doesn’t get dark until five in the afternoon.

And the temperatures at the moment are double the average – up to 16 celsius!

Now is the time to start sowing seeds.

French Breakfast Radish seed has been multi sown four or five to a module

I’ve multi-sowed beetroot, radish, spinach, onion (varieties are Bedfordshire Champion and Kyoto Market Garden).

Broad beans have been sown one seed per module.

All will then be planted out in a few weeks time.

The temperatures can fluctuate so wildly at this time of year that sowing direct is asking for trouble if we get hit by bad weather like last year’s Beast from the East.

Plants sown under cover first can also resist slugs and woodlice better as bigger plants – seedlings are much more vulnerable.

Three different kinds of lettuce surface sown on compost – they need lots of light so only cover with a little compost – if at all.

Lettuce has been sowed on damp compost in clumps which I will then prick out individually before planting out under fleece as single plants.

It’ll be interesting to see if some old lettuce seed I picked up from the Norwich Seed Swap last Sunday germinates.

I’ve sowed a mixture of begged, borrowed and saved seeds this year.

The varieties are bronze arrowhead lettuce, oak leaf, and red salad bowl.  I’ll sow Brun d’hiver later in the year.

One thing I won’t be doing is switching on the heating in the glasshouse if it does turn cold – last year we got hit by an extremely high electricity bill when I did that!

I have also sown early Greyhound cabbage and calabrese seeds I picked up at the swap – like the lettuce they’ve just been sowed randomly into a tray of compost and will be pricked out after they show the first true pair of leaves as single plants.

Coriander’s also gone in.

Still got to get Purple Milano turnips and kohlrabi underway.

The persimmon mash is bubbling away and is smelling more and more like vinegar.

I keep it covered with a tightly drawn muslin and an old tea towel and stir it with a big clean metal spoon every day.

Quinoa, avocado, blueberry, radish and rocket dressed with cider vinegar, salt and olive oil

I made a lovely salad last week and shock horror it was mostly veg I bought at Follands organic stall on Norwich market – where I also obtained my persimmons.

I just fancied a change.

But it has given me the idea to buy a couple of blueberry bushes.

Soon I maybe able to grow all the ingredients next year except for, maybe, the avocado.

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A New No Dig Bed

We had a very productive day on Saturday making a new “no dig” bed with old flattened out bike boxes covered with an inch or two (up to 5cm) very rough homemade compost.

It’s where the old asparagus bed was and the ground has been “rested” for about 3 years.

I’m going to put a new strawberry bed on part of it.

I was lucky to have help from Rebekah for the first part of the day.

We were fortunate the weather had warmed up again after a few days of hard frosts.

I pegged out one of my late father’s old lines and neatened the edges where the grass had started encroaching into the veg garden.

It was just the right length and I had visions of him using it years ago when he first laid it out.

I used a semi circular edger and composted the grass/weeds that I gathered.

The spade was not for digging – honest! It just helped me to edge the grass sward. In the foreground to the right you can see parsley which is self seeding and germinating like mad

I also laid compost around the rhubarb and the rest of the fruit bushes that were missed out last year when I ran out of homemade mulch.

I mixed in some potash from the wood ash from our fireplace to lay around the redcurrants – apparently they like it!

As do overwintering onions which will have to wait their turn until I’ve had a few more fires.

I have inverted an old metal dustbin over one of the rhubarb crowns to force a few pale pink spears for an earlier harvest like I did last year.

Rhubarb
Last year’s champagne pink rhubarb which was forced. Once the bin is removed it quickly reverts to a dark green and red. The hazel behind it has been coppiced and the soil around it has been covered in cardboard to stop weeds and mulched with compost

I’m also weeding the gravel path with a flat shovel/spade – using it almost like a hoe to sever the weeds off at the roots. But I’ll have to be careful to avoid the beautiful clumps of chives which thrive in the edges next to the rhubarb. They spring back year after year then die back to nothing in winter.

This what the chives will be like in three months time – just about to break into spiky round purple flowers

The brick edging is also getting the same treatment – it should look very smart in a couple of weeks time.

I guess you could say this time of year is about preparation – my Dad always said a garden’s made in winter!

This includes going through old seeds, discarding some and keeping others.

I have ordered some new ones including two varieties of beans, “Greek Gigantes” and “Czar”. The former is for drying and keeping as a giant butter bean and the latter can be eaten as a runner bean or also dried for storage for winter soups and stews.

I’m going for celeriac this year and a new variety of beetroot, “Sanguina”.

I would like to plant a persimmon tree but I’m not sure which variety yet.

One of the enduring images I’ve retained of the late autumn landscape in Japan is the orange globes hanging on the bare branches of a tree that had shed its leaves — against a piercing blue sky.

Recently I bought some seed potatoes “Sarpo Mira” – a blight resistant variety from a lovely old fashioned ironmongers and DIY shop in Stalham. I might also plant red skinned “Mozart” as they were so good last year. They will need chitting on a windowsill before planting in April.

I’m planning go to the Norwich Seed Swap in a couple or three weeks time which yielded some great finds last year.

There’s a bit more compost to come  – this is maturing under the makeshift cardboard cover and should be ready in a month or so

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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