It really is incredible how things burst into life when we get a bit of warmth and sunshine, my little plot is suddenly a very different different place. It was such a nice day yesterday that we took the camera and wandered round the garden while doing a few jobs here and there. I include the photos below with a few (hopefully) helpful tips.
The big success for me has been my square foot garden which you will have seen us build if you watched our new video. It is right outside the back door and is just the handiest thing for picking the bits and pieces we use every day.
The sheltered spot is also proving to be a bonus with crops being significantly further ahead than the main garden. For those of you with urban gardens I think this shows that if you get a good position a city plot can be a wonderfully productive oasis and in no way a poor cousin to larger rural gardens.
I have done zero maintenance on it since we planted up and it is already providing salad, spring onions and radishes with peas, beans and broccoli well on the way. Also, while my main garden has become hugely popular with slimy diners from miles around my kitchen beds with gravel surrounds remain pretty much weed and slug free.
Anyway, the following is what we encountered yesterday and is a snapshot of the day including our square foot garden, the polytunnel and main vegetable garden. If there is anything in particular we can help you with please feel free to drop us a line.
Radish Short Top Forcing
Radishes are quick and easy to grow and don't come much better than the perfect little bright red balls of 'Short Top'
. Make sure you don't let them dry out at any stage (not a problem recently) or leave them too long in the ground or they will become woody and split.
The trick to good radishes is harvesting them at just the right time when they have a bright, juicy crunch. Keep sowing every couple of weeks for radishes throughout the season.
Checking Broccoli Seedlings
Broccoli 'Calabrese' (the large green heads you see in the shops) is relatively quick growing and doesn't take up as much space as other larger members of the cabbage family. Here I'm checking under the leaves for the little yellow eggs of cabbage white butterfly (luckily not present in this case) which should be brushed off before they hatch into caterpillars and demolish your leaves in no time.
Spring Onion Ishikura
isn't strictly speaking a spring onion, it is actually a Japanese bunching onion but is a far better alternative than the puny little wisps produced by the most popular variety 'White Lisbon'.
'Ishikura' is fast and reliable and produces firm and crunchy onions with excellent flavour, they are more like (but much better than) the Spring Onions you see in the greengrocer.
I have a soft spot for peas and love watching how their tendrils seek out the support and work their way around it. Sometimes you see one one reaching out in the wrong direction like a child playing 'blind man's buff', add a happy spring to your step by hooking them on to a wire as you pass.
Remember if sowing pea seeds or planting pea plants out you need to get your supports in nice and early as they never yield as well if allowed to flop on the ground.
The best variety? Last year I tried a range of maincrop peas and nothing beat Hurst Greenshaft for yield, flavour and vigour. This year it's all I'm growing.
Tomato Side Shoots
I've loads of tomatoes in this year after a request from herself so under a bit of pressure to turn out a decent crop.
If you are growing cordon or climbing varieties (most people do) you need to snap off any side shoots to keep the plant in order and maximise the yield. The side shoots grow from the join between the main stem and leaf stem as highlighted by my pudgy little finger above. Push the shoot over one way and then back and it should easily break off; if you have left it late and they have got very big cut with a secateurs or sharp knife.
You can see me supporting a cucumber plant above by winding the support string around the stem as it grows. These were planted in the tunnel with a length of twine buried under the root and tied to the crop bars above in the same way I do tomatoes.
Just like tomatoes, cucumbers also produce side shoots which need to be nipped off. Your cucumber plant should be one single upright stem if growing up a length of twine. Also remember cucumbers have relatively shallow root systems and produce fruits which are 90% water so never let the plants dry out when fruiting.
Courgettes produce an absurd amount of fruit so need to be kept well fed to get the most out of them. I always plant with well rotted manure and feed with seaweed/manure pellets if the plant looks like it needs a boost.
For some reason the first couple of courgettes tend to rot at the ends which can be helped by removing the flower; don't worry if this happens there will be plenty to follow. I find the smallest ones the best for flavour, even as small as the one in the photo. If you let them get too large (and they will) they can be used as doorstops or missiles as they certainly aren't great for eating.
Earthing Up Potatoes
My maincrop potatoes are all up and looking very healthy. Now is the time to earth them up by dragging soil up around the stems. This is well worth doing as it adds an extras layer of soil above the tubers which helps protect from foliar blight (there is more soil between the surface and the potatoes so less chance of blight spores reaching them) and reduces the chance of potatoes coming to the surface and turning green and poisonous. Earthing up will also increase yield slightly as more tubers are produced in the extra soil.
Onions Planted in Growgrid
You can see my red onions doing well in their Growgrid mat, I think only 3 out of a hundred or so sets failed to sprout.
I have small amounts of weeding to do as the occasional offender comes up in the planting holes but as the onions bulk up they fill the space and my work is done. I know I go on about it a bit but GrowGrid really is a very good solution for keeping weeds down but also protecting the surface of the soil.