May has ended. It was a month of lots of lovely summery weather and enough rain so as not to feel the pressure of watering the vegetable patches. From now on we will have plenty of produce gluts from the garden.
We have been picking salads and herbs from the polytunnel since the end of April. I’ll add peppery nastursium leaves and turnip thinnings to tonight’s salad bowl.
Along with succession sowing and planting out, I have been pinching out the side shoots on the cordon tomatoes and removing the lower leaves up to the first truss.
In the heat of the polytunnel, scent volatiles fill the air. I only discovered this year what a lovely perfume broad bean flowers have. Having moved the plantings to the far end of the tunnel I was concerned that the bees wouldn’t find the plants. I shouldn’t have worried. The pollinators have been hard at work alongside me. I’m always amazed to see the formation of the pods on the broadbeans. These tiny beans along with the season first garden peas will be added to a spring risotto – tonight’s supper.
Working in the tunnel is a delight. I often run my hands through the herbs for a free aromatherapy session – variations on dill, rosemary, thyme and sage. The sweet basil is starting to come through and I have been pinching out the tops of the pot sown Basil ‘Aristotle’ to garnish the risotto.
I have been thinning the peaches and apricots and the gooseberries are fattening. We already need to think about preserving the abundance – kept in oil, artichoke hearts make a lovely antipasti…
and I shall gather some heads of the elderflower to make a cordial.
Summer is here.
Posted in apricot, artichoke, broadbean, forage, gooseberry, herb, lettuce, pea, peach, salad, tomato, turnip, wildflower
Oh my, the air temperature has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the week though, hopefully, we have seen the last of the ground frosts. Of course, being aware of the oncoming weather is to be forewarned. I have brought all plants in pots undercover and have been draping the tender new plantings with fleece….
which is somewhat ancient and because it has been stored in the piggery over the last year, rather tattered courtesy of the mice. It reminds me of Miss Havisham’s wedding dress. Still it does a good job of protecting the plants on chilly nights.
Last week, the lovely OH cut the orchard and the grass of the vegetable plot, leaving the areas where we have spring bulbs. Everything is looking spruce, which reminds of the sage advice on making a garden look good if you have limited time i.e. ‘cut the grass and edge’.
The plums, damsons and gages have finished blossoming so hopefully had good pollination. The apples are coming into bloom now; I hope the cold weather won’t affect the pollination too much.
Whilst the cold weather has set back germination a little, I have, amongst others, recent sowings of peas, lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and Basil ‘Aristotle’ coming through at the moment. The latter makes lovely green mounds and is an excellent choice for pots. No sign of Basil ‘Genovese’ yet; I have bought another packet of seed just in case the lack of sprouting is due to old age.
More tulips are in bloom…
and the artichokes are producing flower heads. I’ll pick some of these to steam and serve with a mustard vinagrette for a light lunch tomorrow…
I LOVE the froth of Chelsea, and this year it was extra frothy as many of the show gardens went au naturel. Funny that, as the english landscape is the result of hundreds’ of years of intervention. Still – let’s go with the flow and get out and see the real stuff!
gorgeous planting palettes…
to the simply OTT
and full blown blowsy….
it’s all out there to have a look at. FAB.
On the holding, we have been picking the spring veg. – salads, artichokes, asparagus, peas and broad beans. When I was small, I hated broad beans – they came in the frozen mixed veg. that we had dished up with the Sunday lunch. I tried to hide the grey beans under something else, usually with limited success . Now the broad bean is my favourite spring bean, mixed in with peas, what a treat!
Then, add home grown potatoes and herbs ….Sunday lunch, LOVE it…
I am a total convert to growing early peas in guttering. The lengths of gutters are strung up, well out of reach of marauding rodents. The germination in the warmth of the polytunnel is good. It’s super easy to plant out.
What’s not to like…. Any gaps I fill with a few extra seeds.
In go the pea sticks. All good …the hardest part ….
Getting that pesky pea netting on. Though once done … pigeons – pah!
Ron the fence has morphed into Ron the digger. He ran a quick eye over the to be ornamental garden and said the levelling and excavating for hardworks were eminently doable. He’ll be back in a month or so with kit.
In the meantime the lovely OH and I have been doing our own digging in the main veg. growing area – our kit consisting of forks, trugs and wheelbarrow. It’s getting there – a few more days clearing. We have time as the ground is still too cold for sowing.
The sowings in the polytunnel are doing well. Pea; broadbean; turnip; radish; tatsoi; rocket; various herbs; plus cut and come salad will be ready over the next month or two adding to the frozen fruit; apples; garlic; shallot; parsnip; potato; chard and sprouting broccoli we still have, all going someway to fill the ‘hungry gap’.
Which is just as well, as a rat discovered the last of the autumn squashes; a rodent proof storage room in the lean to is on the list of OH projects.
I found a more welcome visitor the other day when I opened the windows to air the bathroom – Adalia bipunctata, the 2 spot ladybird. In the interest of science I have added my sighting to the UK Ladybird survey.
For my nerdy project this year I have decided to insect spot ladybirds as they move quite slowly. I tried to note bee species on the smallholding last year.
It wasn’t a success …..they fly around too much.
Reading this week: Meadowland: the private life of an English field by John Lewis-Stempel
I’ve been clearing the decks in the potting shed. Which is exactly the sort of job to do on a blustery January day. It also means I can actually work again in the shed as the pots are stacked on shelves rather than piled on the floor and the table.
I still need to clean down and oil the tools, a job I should have done at the end of the last growing season – even so – a clear table to work at and space for a kettle and radio though it is our local ‘Potato Day’ this coming weekend hence the appearance of the egg boxes, (for chitting) competing for space.
We have started the sowings in the polytunnel; peas in guttering as well as radish and salad crops.
In the beds – turnips, more radish, flat leaf parsley and coriander, in modules – cauliflower and globe artichoke. More herbs and leaf salad sowings to follow.
Reading this week: In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates
…. would have been the instruction to a small nipper shelling home grown peas in the early and mid 20th century as they are a sweet treat. I have been known to pull off a few pods for shelling and eating whilst out working in the polytunnel.
We have been harvesting the remainder of the pea crop sown outside. From field to freezer in less than an hour to ensure we retain as much sugar in the vegetable. Like sweetcorn the sugars in peas rapidly turn to starch once picked, which is why I never buy peas or sweetcorn in the vegetable aisle of a supermarket.
This year the crop was good. The sowing started off in the polytunnel in lengths of black gutter. Once the plants had grown a root system sufficient to bind the compost together we hung the gutters for a few days outdoors under fleece to harden off the plants. Then the stretches were slid out into their trenches and again covered with fleece for protection against frost and from the pigeons. Later twiggy branches were pushed into the soil to help support the vines and keep the pods off the soil. We grew short varieties as they need less support. Luck was on our side this year. There was some small damage from mice, (or voles), some damage to the leaf from pigeons and no sign whatsoever, thankfully, from pea moth.
Here in the UK, Lincolnshire and East Anglia are the main pea growing regions and the farmers produce around 90% of the UK’s requirement. It’s a race against the clock; from field to frozen in a time limit of 2.5 hours. Though I have to say the kit used is a bit more sophisticated than our fingers and bowls…..
Check out the process here: Harvesting peas