Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - June 2009
KITCHEN GARDEN UPDATE JUNE 2009
It is already June in the Kitchen Garden, and now we can really see, smell and taste the fruits of our labours. The garden is vibrant with bright colours of Calendula and Nasturtium. Heady scents of Sweet Peas waft from the obelisks where they are planted amongst the runner beans, planting here attracts the bees and means I remember to dead head as I harvest the beans.
Mellow June means we gardeners are rewarded with delicious early summertime treats; all the more pleasing for being seasonal and ripe. Nothing is more evocative, nothing shouts English country kitchen garden in summer more than a strawberry. Here in our Kitchen Garden berries adorn the raised beds, safe under netting from the hoards of pigeons and cheeky squirrels. Using Mulch Mats has really improved the crop this year - I have tried straw and strulch but this seemed to hold too much moisture and increased the problems from botrytis.
Another boon has been planting in September so the plants can firmly establish themselves before the seasons start, pictured are the variety Christine. These plants are cropping better in their first season than the spring planted beds. I have also grown new plants for this season from runners, these are doing well, but the best show of fruit is coming from the raised beds as opposed to the open ground.
A good growing medium comprising of homemade compost, organic matter and soil has worked its magic. The very first berries were had from the greenhouse back in May. Stephanie maintains that these were the most delicious and sweet that she had ever tasted. This early crop of strawberries were forced in the ‘Earth Box’ (a system I am very impressed with). They are nearly finished now but I am going to leave the plants to see how they fair next year and set some runners by pegging the plantlets down onto pots of gritty soil and severing from the parent plant when properly rooted. Plants for free!
The ripeness of a home grown berry is something you just cannot buy; you nurture them and can watch them turn to that lovely vibrant deep red, ready to be picked at the optimum moment. With a perfume that cannot be matched, that is entirely their own. They are soft, warm and sweet. One bite transports me back to earlier times spent ‘picking-our-own’ hand in hand with Mum on heady summer days that seemed so much longer, warmer and sunnier. There is no doubt that this is a much better year for strawberries than the last, which was awfully damp and grey causing berries to rot or fail to ripen at all. Space plants well and provide enough water; a seaweed feed does not go amiss.
Once you have tried home-grown there is no going back
to the sad supermarket excuse packaged in plastic, ripened en route and chilled so much that they are hard on purchase and mush in a day or two. Not to mention what they have been sprayed with, how far they have come and the nutritional value. The latter should be of more importance, what is the point in eating ‘5 a day’ if all those five are nutritionally depleted, factory farmed, fruit and vegetables?
When producing your own food you can grow in soils that are a vast improvement on the majority of ‘agri-plane’ fields that line the roads of East Anglia and beyond. What is in the soil is in the plant, is in the fruit and eventually is in you! All the trace elements and minerals that should be present in a healthy soil are soon lost in the tide of over production.
Broad beans are another seasonal treat that Stephanie looks forward to; as you can see they are very well supported in a ‘cage’ of rabbit wire. I always have Rabbit Wire around the garden as it has a multitude of uses. I am really glad I constructed this cage....although at the time it looked a little like overkill but, we have had some rough and gusty weather which I am sure would have flattened them had they not been protected. It has the dual purpose of keeping those pigeons off, but needs to be more accessible, we will try again next year!
More netting this time over the ‘summer’ Sprouting Broccoli, Bordeaux. This is cropping well and I recommend giving it a try. If you do grow them keep cutting them regularly because they resprout and will easily go over. Slice off the buds so as to get the best and longest crop possible.
Squash and Courgette plants are in their new beds now, all with slug protection of course!
I have sown more Lettuces, Brassicas, Sweetcorn, Radish and Carrots, with new sowings of Florence Fennel, Chicory and Borlotti Beans.
Keep up with the side shooting and feeding in the greenhouse and here’s hoping you too enjoy bumper crops!