Squash flower

It's raining today so I have postponed some of the tasks I was planning in the garden. A lot has changed since my last blog post. We finished harvesting the purple sprouting broccoli (planted September 2018) the same day (17th May) we harvested our first broad beans and peas from the crop sown and overwintered in the greenhouse. I had transplanted them into approximately 20 litre bags (hadopots), two to a bag, and moved them outside during April.  They easily withstood the late frosts, but next year I'll plant only one bean per bag to give them more space.  

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There is little difference between the broad bean plants I sowed outdoors last Autumn and (most of) those I sowed in April and planted out as seedlings in early May. Only one week in difference in the start of harvesting. Next year I will probably not sow broad beans outdoors in Autumn, and I definitely won't sow peas. Only two of the pea plants survived to produce pods, despite protection from wind and frost over winter.

I say only most of the beans I sowed in April. Some are stunted and have distinctly curled leaves. The closest match of symptoms - certainly the pictures - I've seen is aminopyralid residue weed killer damage introduced through horse manure or via commercial compost.  I did dig some horse manure into the bed a few weeks before planting the bean seedlings but, if it was that surely it would have affected the whole bed. The only other possibility was the potting compost I used in the root trainers to germinate and bring on the seedlings, but I think they were all sown into compost from the same bag. I think a more likely explanation is voles damaging the roots although I have no idea what such damage would look like I'm sure root damage will stunt the development.

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After my success last year with Autumn planted cauliflower I tried again for a spring harvest, but it was a dismal failure. Plenty of leaves but only one produced a cauliflower head and it was more like broccoli than a nice compact cauliflower. The problem was most likely the soil composition. I am trying again with some grown from seed but due to lack of space I am growing in large bags. This time I have taken more care of the soil composition and fertiliser.

I am worried about the garlic crop. After the change from the hot dry weather at the end of April to the wet, cool spell early in May they developed rust. The bulbs had not developed so an early harvest we not feasible. It was either wait and see or throw away the whole lot. I cut off the infected leaves, which still left plenty of healthier, green leaves, and fortunately the weather changed again and the hot dry spell held the infection in check, giving the bulbs a few more weeks to develop. The rust returned when the weather broke and most of the leaves are now infected so they do need to be dug out, but I am hopeful that there will be at least something to salvage. The gamble was that the rust wouldn't spread to nearby onions and leeks and so far they are still clear.

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In mid April we started an asparagus bed and planted ten crowns. A first for us. For weeks nothing appeared and by the middle of May it had become a daily routine to gaze along the planting lines trying to spot the spears emerging.  We worried that we had not provided enough water during the hot, dry spell, but eventually the first tip appeared. It took another four weeks before all ten had sprouted. 

phoca thumb l Garden June 3 2020

Last year I sowed kohlrabi directly to where they were to grow but the caterpillars ate all but one, so this year I grew them in cellular trays in the greenhouse and planted them out under insect mesh.  I am also attempting celeriac again. Last year I grew plenty of leaves but no bulbs. As with the kohl rabi I planted directly into the bed. This year I grew in seed trays, potted on in the greenhouse and planted them out earlier this month.  I'm not sure what happened last year, with all the rain I thought they had got enough water.  I read something about removing the bottom leaves. I didn't do that so I'm trying it this year. If they all grow I'll be eating celeriac for months.

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We grew lovely beetroot for the last two years. The problem was we didn't grow enough, so this year I've planted more than twice as much in phased batches. I'm not sure the phasing has worked so well because the early sowings take much longer to germinate and establish than the later sowings which seem to have caught up. At least if the leaf development is anything to go by.

What else is new that I haven't tried before? Turnips, swedes, chard and climbing french beans (variety Cobra). Some of the first batch of turnips sown in March (as per the directions on the seed packet) have started to develop the globe shaped, white root and I am optimistic we will get a good crop. A second batch has developed a nice head of leaves. With the swedes it is too early to say how successful we will be and as for the chard - it is growing vigorously. The cobra french beans are struggling. Sown and planted out at the same time as the runner beans they look weak in comparison. Some may have been damaged by slugs and birds, but the lower leaves are looking a sickly yellow. 

As for old faithfuls, this year we decided to try growing potatoes in bags. We used 15 thirty litre hadopots, placing 5 seed potatoes in each on about 5-8cm of soil and covering with similar amount, topping up to cover the shoots and leaves until the bags were full.  Apart from mild frost damage with the late frost in May the potatoes appear to be growing well, but the true test will be when we dig them up. We planted first earlies, second earlies and main crop over the course of mid March to mid April.

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As for carrots, the Amsterdam forcing variety which I sowed indoors in two batches are already producing a tasty crop although the somewhat stoney soil is a problem.

Having extended our growing area into the old riding arena, with the poly tunnel (now filling up with tomato, aubergine, chilli, sweet pepper, cucumber and various squash plants) we have also built two more raised beds and set out an extended area for container growing. The trees make it fairly sheltered without reducing the sunlight too much, especially in the summer months.

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We have made some progress in our aim of harvesting home grown produce all year round, the winter/spring brassicas (except the cauliflower which were all lost) lasted well into May, even early June, at which point the broad beans and peas had started to provide some pickings. In the poly tunnel and greenhouse the cucumber (Emile), courgette (Midnight) and patty pan squash (Delikates) were not far behind and are now regular features on our table. By early June we also had carrots. Of course the cut and come again salad greens and radishes from the greenhouse have provided a delicious addition to lunch - particularly the mustard leaves - although those from the garden have mostly fed the slugs and snails.

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