It’s early July in my no dig garden, and I am loving the daily fruity harvests of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries and redcurrants. Whitecurrants are almost ready to pick and cherries soon too, protected from birds by enviromesh, pegged securely to the tree.
I cover the tree when the cherries are just starting to change colour, making sure that I do not trap any visiting insects, until after the cherry harvest. It’s amazing how quickly cherries will vanish the moment they are ripe. This tree is kept pruned so that I can reach to cover it. There’s just one branch with a small bunch of cherries sticking out of the top which I couldn’t reach, so the birds will have a treat too. I cover blueberries but share of the other soft fruit with the wildlife because in my garden a fruit cage is impractical, space-wise.
The recent rainfall has been so very welcome, but it’s rather autumnal here today, grey skies and a chilly wind. I’m looking forward to some sunnier weather next week I( hope!) In the polytunnel we’ve been picking a few tomatoes for a couple of weeks, such a delicious treat – with over 50 tomato plants in the tunnel and a further dozen or so outside, I’m anticipating an abundance soon. I preserve tomatoes (canning, dehydrating, chutneys, jam, sauces, freezing, salts, etc) which is why I grow so many plants (and varieties, 49 this year) because there’s no way my family will manage to eat all of these fresh!
Recent hot weather before temperatures fell again encouraged the basil to flower in the polytunnel, which looks lovely but slows down leaf growth.
I grow extra basil plants which I do allow to flower for insects, and made some basil flower vinegar with them – a jar half filled with basil flowers and topped up with vinegar. I used champagne vinegar here, but any light vinegar is fine (eg: white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar. The rosey colour comes from some of the darker basil varieties I used: red Rubin, Thai basil, cinnamon basil. It’s delicious in salad dressings and sprinkled onto chips.
There’s more about basil flowers in this blog post.
All of the garlic has been harvested, the roots trimmed and they are drying in the greenhouse before storing. We ate some fresh, as green garlic. I’ve harvested almost all of the first early potatoes from the allotment. These don’t store as well as the second earlier and main crop spuds which are still growing. After harvesting and allowing them to dry, I’m storing the first earlies in a paper sack in the kitchen.
We’re loving eating fresh mange tout and sugar peas, but the plants are under attack from sparrows and pigeons in the front garden beds, so although they are cropping they are unable to grow as tall as normal, it’s very frustrating. Although I don’t usually sow peas at this time of year (risks of mildew and pea moth) I’m going to try sowing some and growing in the back garden.
After harvesting potatoes, I levelled the bed with a rake and danced on the surface to firm the soil, then planted leek plants. These are from Organic Plants, I bought them because one of my trays of home sown, module grown, multi-sown leeks came to an unfortunate end (it got frazzled in the heat). The remaining multi-sown are in my back garden, it will be interesting to compare them with these individually planted leeks. They are covered with enviromesh to protect against leek moth, which is rampant here. They’ll be growing under the mesh for the rest of the year – I have a larger piece but the day I planted them I had to make do with a smaller one for now (I’d forgotten to bring the big piece).
I’m harvesting the rest of the potatoes in this bed (more earlies) this week and will be sowing carrots, spring onions and radish here – all plants that will also benefit from the enviromesh cover (carrot root fly, flea beetle). One reason why I grow in beds like this is because it makes crop protection so much easier. When I first got this allotment 15 years or so ago, I made lovely curvy beds, but it was so difficult trying to keep them weed free and protected against pests that after one season I changed the layout and made straight beds.
There are 1 1/2 beds of potatoes still growing, next to a bed of multi-sown onions (there are shallots in the other half of the 1/2 potato bed). I usually sow around 6 onion seeds per module, but this one has 9 onions growing together!
This is a favourite way of companion planting many veggies, an idea I learned from Charles and now experiment with different multi-sown combinations every year.
The tall flowering plant is a parsnip, which self seeded on the path and is having a splendid time growing there. Insects love the flowers. I grow as many different flowering plants as I can at the allotment to increase biodiversity, including down the whole length of the border with my allotment neighbour John. It works really well, there’s a huge number of ladybirds and overflies on the plot, for example, their larvae especaillly are fantastic aphid munchers.
Now is a key time for planting brassicas for autumn, winter and spring harvests, ie: transplants, it is getting late for sowing seeds for Brussel sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli, so if you have forgotten then best to try to get some plants rather than sowing. I have tried later sowing of these and they do grow but are much smaller over winter and produce shoots rather than fat sprouts (the shoots are tasty however).
I planted a bed full of sprouts, broccoli and cauliflowers a few weeks ago, and cabbages, Kohl Rabi, swedes and turnips after harvesting garlic. This bed hadn’t had much mulch for the past two years, just a little at the top of the bed. Natural Grower offered me some compost so this seemed a good place to try it out as a mulch. There wasn’t quite enough for the whole bed (2 sacks) so I used homemade compost in the middle (the dark stripe). The brassica beds are protected by cloche hoops and butterfly netting (which also protects against birds).
Natural Grower is organic and biodynamic approved. I have not used it before, so will be interested to see how it compares as a mulch with the beds where I’ve used homemade compost and composted manure.
In my greenhouse I’ve been sowing lettuces, chicories, pak choi, dill, coriander and Florence fennel. Sown into seed trays first, these are now pricked out into modules for planting out soon as transplants. Dill and coriander can be a bit tricky at this time of year, they can bolt, so I’m also sowing these herbs as microleaves – I want them both for summer salads and preserving. Sow thickly in a seed tray of compost and cut when about 10cm tall. This usually gives at least three fragrant harvests, works really well on the kitchen windowsill too.