Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - July 2011

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st July 2011

The great British summer is here, rain, rain and more rain!  As soon as we installed the irrigation kits I just knew the hot weather would break!  On a positive note everything is getting a much needed drink and the garden is looking very lush and green albeit lacking in other colour hues apart from the red runner bean flowers that are brightening up the place.  Come on sunshine we need to ripen up those lovely Italian tomatoes.

What a busy month we’ve had in the Kitchen Garden! Lots of seeds and young plants have been planted and some lovely produce harvested and on top of that we have had our Customer Focus Group and our Press Day both held here at the Folly Garden and Kitchen Garden. The second Harrod Horticultural Press Day was a resounding success with a mix of garden writers, magazine editors and journalists enjoying the spectacular surroundings of the recently refurbished Folly and a must-have tour of the Kitchen Garden.
All our blackcurrants have been picked, pressed and made into Creme de Cassis.  Lynn our Kitchen Gardener had fun pressing all the blackcurrants using the 12 litre fruit press and I was busy in my kitchen adding alcohol and bottling up the delicious blackcurrant liqueur, a taster of which was enjoyed by the visitors on press day! If you have blackcurrant bushes the Berry Picker is a must; it really made light of hard work so give it a go, you won’t be disappointed! From Berry Picker to Berry Keeper and this handy little container proved the ideal place to to store them and as we had a good crop of raspberries too (luckily no raspberry beetle this year) and we were able to supply our caterers with home grown raspberries for the yummy flapjacks served on Press Day.

Back to the garden and the all important produce!  We are harvesting Cucumbers, Little Gem Lettuces, Beetroot, Broad Beans, Peas, Garlic, Sugar Snaps, Spinach, Rocket, Courgettes, Spring Onions, Radishes, Chard, Strawberries, Raspberries & Blackcurrants – phew! All fresh from garden to plate and all delicious too.

Butternut squash is one of my favourite vegetables and we have five varieties planted out in the garden namely Honeybear, Winter Hornet, Hunter, Early Butternut and the wonderful Uchiki Kuri – I will keep you updated over the next couple of months of their progress which I must add is dependent on some lovely warm sunshine.

The garlic was harvested a few days ago and is now drying out (with the help of a cloche!) Lynn is going to demonstrate her braiding skills and plait them up for me to hang up and store for winter use.  My larder is going to smell divine – don’t think any vampires will be visiting!
We are picking our strawberries which have been kept on strawberry tables in our fruit cage.  The Strawberry Tables are a new product for Harrod Horticultural this year. The strawberries look fabulous on them, not only do they allow you to grow strawberries in a confined space, but the plants are off the ground away from slugs and snails.  If you are not as lucky as us and don’t have a fruit cage to put them in then Optional Hoop & Netting Kit is a must for you!

You might be thinking that everything here in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden is too good to be true and that we don’t experience all the same gardening and pest problems as you all, but I can reassure you that we DO! Read on!

We harvested the 1st early potatoes (var. Colleen, Lady Christl and Maris Bard), it was a good yield but unfortunately some of them had potato scab which is really disappointing.  This was probably because they didn’t have enough water during our sunny and dry spring.  These are still edible but obviously don’t look so good. I did find the Potato Harvester Scoop a really good tool – no stabbed potatoes this year.

Some of our courgette leaves are suffering from leaf scorch, I identified this as some of the leaves had brown patches and were going crispy.  I suspect this was during our hot spell but it’s really odd that only 2 out of 8 plants are affected.  I’ve cut off the leaves in the question which seems to have set back the plants a bit but the others are producing courgettes on a daily basis so if they don’t improve they will be gone!

Unfortunately our pollinating bees have been decimated by a Wax Moth infestation in our Beepol beehive.  I am really saddened by this and I’m keen to try again with another batch of bees that are enroute to me. This time we will try Wax Moth protection – if you are interested to find out more about this pest, our pest control expert Julian Ives has written a guide.

Before I go I must tell you about a surprise visitor we had in the kitchen garden – a rather large grass snake.  After the initial panic of thinking it was an Adder we calmed down and the snake disappeared and we haven’t seen him since!  Lynn is a bit wary where she is putting her hands at the moment just in case he has reappeared. Luckily, Martin Fiddes our erstwhile Photographer and Horticulturist was on hand to photograph him before Lynn jumped out of her skin and scared the snake off! If anyone sees him around tell him to come back and sort the mice out!

Whilst writing this I also found another visitor to our greenhouse.  I’d been noticing that mice were eating some of the produce in the greenhouse and I had set Humane Mouse Traps baited with peanut butter to catch them but this little mousie allowed me to pick him up and deposit him as far away from the kitchen garden as I could get him!  I didn’t have any gloves on at the time but I did wash my hands!

As you can see from above, mid-summer is a great time to be a pest or a disease and we've had plenty of uninvited visitors. Eager to get their jaws, mandibles and proboscises into the young seedlings and plants, this unwanted army will stop at practically nothing! That's where our latest version of the Little Book of Pests - now entitled the 'Little Book of Least Wanted Pests' - proves invaluable as each of the 24 pages is packed full of information about the major garden pests along with plenty of ideas of how  to prevent and remove the threat to your plants each one poses. What's more, this must-have pest guide is completely free so all you have to do is decide if you want to download a copy or request the book from us. It most definitely doesn't contain any anti-snake advicethough!          

It's never too late to pick up a spade or fork in anger for the first time and get those hands and fingers covered in soil and a great way to start is by requesting a copy of our latest 116-page Summer Edition 2011 catalogue, jam-packed with seasonal and brand new gardening ideas for the kitchen garden, patio and greenhouse - an inspirational addition to any potting shed or coffee table. And if the above isn't enough, you can also pick up loads of handy tips by following us on Twitter and Facebook and we're always here to offer advice and support too!  

August looks set to be a busy month too with the first deliveries of orders for our new Garden Arches scheduled; we're still sifting through the feedback from our highly successful Focus Group and Press Day and if some of those sharp summer showers send you scurrying for cover, fire up the PC/laptop and pay our revitalised Garden Blog a visit - we're sure you'll be impressed!

See you all next month, by then maybe I might have cleared out the potting shed!!