It never ceases to amaze me just how much and how quickly the kitchen garden changes at this time of year.

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 27th June 2016

It never ceases to amaze me just how much and how quickly the kitchen garden changes at this time of year. Crops seem to grow at an incredible rate, whilst we gardeners are too busy with the many little jobs that need to doing, to notice. It’s not until the occasional lull in activity that I stand, coffee in hand, and marvel at the wonders that nature provides.

Our squashes, planted in a raised bed towards the end of May have now reached the top of their obelisk support. I honestly believe they are growing as I look at them. They are enjoying the deep soil, improved with lashings of farmyard manure, and the sunny,hot position. We are now trying to restrict them to three fruits per plant to try an get a good sized crop. This is incredibly hard to do as the temptation is to leave as many on the plant as I can!   Our sweetcorn will soon be as high as an elephant’s eye and our beans are halfway up their supports.

Our potatoes are also looking healthy, however the recent rainfall levels leave me worried for blight and I have been keeping a daily eye on them for early signs. The early potatoes will be harvested at the beginning of July, but the maincrops would be the ones to suffer.

snail 2Here on the coast of East Anglia, we suffered horrible storms, torrential rain, strong north winds and very cold temperatures during early June. The heavy rainfall has continued but been interspersed with some lovely hot sunny spells. Whilst we gardeners may not have appreciated the soakings we have endured, the garden certainly seems to be benefitting and the days spent watering have been less frequent than we normally expect at this time of year. Unfortunately, our slimy enemies are also enjoying the conditions and this year will be going down as one of the worst for slugs and snails. Our regular applications of nemaslug on our veg beds has paid off, as the slug population definitely appears to be less of a problem than in other parts of the main gardens. They are still in residence, however, albeit smaller in number and size, and are causing some damage to our strawberry crop. We have added some Slug Halt to give added protection and this appears to be paying off. Elsewhere in the kitchen garden crops, such as brassicas and salads are being protected with slug pellets from the snails that are looking for a juicy snack. And on really wet days, there is nothing else for it, but to hand pick the little pests as they emerge.

The other pests hovering for an easy lunch at the moment, are the birds. Our tayberry bush and blueberries, grown outside the fruit cage, have now finished blooming and started setting fruit. Back in the middle of the month, we draped bird netting over them, supported by poles, to make sure the birds don’t steal our harvest.

In the greenhouse this month, we have begun to harvest tomatoes and cucumbers. These plants are now being fed weekly to cucumber 2make sure they have the energy to keep going.   The tomato plants have had their main stems pinched out as they have now set six trusses of fruit and reached the top of their supports. This means that they are even more keen to bush out, so we’ve been keeping an eye out for side shoots that need removing. Our peppers have set fruits which will are now already a good size and will remain on the plants for a while whilst they ripen. The plants have been securely tied in to their supports to make sure they can take the weight. Our cucumbers have now reached the top of the greenhouse, so we have started training them across the roof struts. They will love the conditions and will provide useful shade to the tomato plants underneath. We have already harvested quite a few cucumbers and there are plenty of fruits setting for a future crop.

Earlier in the month we spotted whitefly on the leaves of our peppers and, although the plants still looked really healthy, we took quick action to nip the attack in the bud. The plants were sprayed with Insect Killer Spray and we hung up more yellow sticky traps. The greenhouse was also given a garlic smoke treatment which will help keep the foliage strong and able to resist attack, as well as helping to get rid of the whitefly. The whitefly attack was probably a result of the greenhouse being closed up when conditions were colder at the end of May, beginning of June. A stuffy environment is not a healthy one. At this time of year, on hot and sunny days, we are regularly damping down the floor and the capillary matting to keep the growing conditions as perfect as possible. Autovents are in operation to make sure the plants don’t overheat and we leave the door open to encourage a through-breeze.

This month, we planted out what is possibly my favourite crop in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden. (Although I am quite fickle and my favourite can change daily!) I love sweet potatoes because, not only do they regularly reward us with a really good crop, they look amazing as well.   As in previous years, they have been planted in a raised bed into soil that has been enriched with farmyard manure and homemade compost. They are being trained up one of our new coloured obelisks to provide an impressive focal point in the garden.

Every year around this time, I walk around the garden trying to figure out where I will put the leeks that have been growing in cells in the cold frame as well as in neat rows in a seed bed. I always seem to forget them when I am planting out and as always, the garden is stuffed full of vegetables everywhere I look! This year was no different and it took several trips around the garden before I decided to consign the remains of our spinach crop to the compost heap and give the soil a good digging over before planting out the leeks in their place.

June always sees the main harvest begin in earnest in the kitchen garden and this year is no exception. We have been harvesting strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, mange tout, salads, rhubarb and greenhouse-grown new potatoes. We’ve also been hard at work sowing more seeds to fill the gaps that harvesting brings. We’ve been sowing more salads, spinach, rocket, carrots, chard and peas.

apple thinning 2Traditionally in June, fruit trees perform a natural thinning of their fruit in a process known as the June Drop. We have also given them a helping hand by thinning the fruit further to make sure that the remaining apples and pears have room to grow to their full potential: a lovely calm job for a sunny day, leaving one fruit per cluster and removing the rest. It never sits easily with me to remove healthy fruit, but it’s always worth it come harvest time.

Here are some of the jobs we've got planned for July in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden:

  • Earth up maincrop potatoes.
  • Harvest broad beans.
  • Continue sowing and pricking out seeds.
  • Continue weekly feed of all crops.

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