Garden Update May 2013

It is official, we didn't have a good spring! The wettest for years, so I hear, and the coldest for 50 years; no surprise there then.

As I said in my last blog, I am hoping for a quick spurt of growth, especially from my onions and garlic, so to that end, I have given them all half a handful of 'Fish, Blood and Bone' around the base, and dressed them with some proprietary Nitrogen fertiliser. They are starting to look better (Figure 1) but they have a long way to go yet.

I have all my carrots in now thankfully, also my broad beans are showing through (Figure 2), so that's good, last year we hardly had a bean to eat.

Useful tip:

(Figure 3) I put old wire mesh filing trays that were being thrown out at work over my beans. The trays prevent the birds pulling the newly emerged beans out of the ground when they first appear; the crows etc. are brilliant at smelling out shooting beans. If you have trouble with mice digging up your beans, do the same, but also put a small trickle of paraffin over the row.

 

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3

 

I have the soil ready for planting the runner beans in the bean trench; to be fair, I only grow a few runners for Jan and her mother. I am not a lover of them, I much prefer French beans.

I use the same trench every year for my climbing beans; it means I can ensure the soil is enriched with manure on a regular basis.  The trench is set in such a way that the beans are easy to pick because the poles only slope one way (Figure 4), added to which, this means the ground below the beans can be used for other produce. Last year along with the beans I had butternut squash in there, the year before was dwarf beans and lettuce, this year, it is Oca. I was given some of these small South American potatoes by a friend and as I like to grow something new every year, that's my project for this year. They are just starting to peep through the ground now; they look a bit like a Shamrock plant.

As I have mentioned I have all my carrots set now, I have some 'Autumn King' and 'Giant Flak' in a carrot bed, this bed is netted to prevent the carrot fly getting access. I also have a row of 3 different varieties of carrot (Fly Away, Early Nantes and St. Valery).  

Useful tip:

So as to try and avoid attracting carrot root fly, I always place my carrots in between or close to strong smelling vegetables such as onions.  Added to this, I mark the row by putting a shallot plant at both ends and in between each variety of carrot (Figure 5). The benefits of doing this are, the smell helps to confound the carrot fly, and also it marks off the row in the garden and separates the varieties.

 

Figure 4 Oca Figure 5

 

My parsnips are not showing yet, but because they were set so late, that's no surprise; the spuds are just starting to show now, hopefully I will manage to get them hoed up before I go on holiday.

The green house is looking far more healthy now; chillies, aubergines, beans, sweet corn, sprouts, kale, cucumbers and leeks are all up and running now, not forgetting the tomatoes of course (Figure 6). However, they are all well behind where they should be. Weather permitting, I will be trying to set out all the plants I can into my 'Italian Garden' before we go on holiday.  I call it my Italian Garden because it's the part of the allotments where I plant the courgettes, aubergines, outside tomatoes, chillies and outside peppers. Last year I also did Cavalo Nero in the same spot; it grew well and did not attract the white fly that curly kale does, but the pigeons still enjoyed it.  I am already thinking of what Italian plants I can set next year.

Useful tip:

If I am setting out a plant that may still be a little vulnerable to the cold or wind, or may be prone to attack from pigeons or rabbits, I put them in a 2 or 3 litre plastic drinks bottle with the top and bottom cut off; this provides them with protection and their own little micro climate. Sometimes you can get 5 litre square water bottles; these are excellent for this purpose.

 

Figure 6  Soft drinks bottle 5 litre water bottles

 

At long last, the grape vine is starting to show healthy shoots and leaves (figure 7). I have the vine trained up the outside of the green house to provide some shade in the summer. The back of the green house is protected by Jerusalem artichokes, thus, with the garden shed on the other side, the greenhouse is fairly well shaded by the time the summer sun is beating down on the glass.

Jan's Dahlias are coming up and her herb garden is looking really good (Figure 8). The sage and rosemary have both benefitted from a hard cut back in the spring; the sage will be used on some of my cheeses and I must dry some of the oregano whilst it is looking so healthy.

This year, the fruit cage is looking very good, talking to my friends and looking at their crops, it seems like it's going to be a good year for currants and gooseberries. (Figure 9&10).

 

Figure 7  Figure 8 Figure 9 Figure 10

 

That's it for May I think, so catch up in June some time, hopefully with a marked improvement in both the weather and the crops, and me relaxed after my holiday in Italy. I will see if I can bring some pictures of Italian allotments and Italian cheeses back for the website.