Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - May 2009
KITCHEN GARDEN UPDATE MAY 2009
Lady May arrives in the garden, whirling her skirts in mischievous east coast winds. Contrary she blows hot and cold, catching unfortunate gardeners unawares. This is the time to be on your guard; armed with fleece, cloches and a hoe we try to tame her. With plant food, string and supports we struggle to keep up with her.
Woe betide the absent gardener in May, who like myself sows and grows for all their worth through March and April, then ups and leaves their babies for a week or more, but only after having given good instruction on watering to an indispensable third party of course! Stephanie who normally plays an active role in watering the Kitchen Garden was also at the Chelsea Flower Show all week. Time will tell that, left in the care of Lady May this fickle female can turn green houses into jungles, seedlings into pot-bound monsters, dessicate all but the best watered plants and burn black the edges of unhardy or unprotected plants.
Chelsea calls though and it was off to London to help out on the Harrod stand, to mix and talk with like-minded folk about all things green and grown. So many questions, it’s great to see so much interest in 'growing your own' and I really try to give good advice and encouragement as I believe that organic growing in people’s back yards is the first step on the path to a greater awareness of where all our food comes from, what it should taste like, and how food can be produced in a more harmonious way.
This year’s strangest Chelsea fashion....bolted Chard!
When I finally made it back to the Kitchen Garden there was much to be done, side shooting the tomatoes and tying them in. Planting herbs into handsome Long Tom Pots right next to Stephanie’s back door so that she may flavour all those home cooked dishes with many types of Basil, Thyme, Oregano and Mint.
Lots of hardening off, planting out, potting on, pricking out and do not forget all those weeds trying to smother plants that had more right to what precious water was available in May. Now here comes a major admission... I never get the irrigation system set up early enough. I do have a plan of action though and have already installed self watering trays in the green house for pots, bags and seedlings, also, self-watering pots for Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Melons.
We seem to be following a pattern of having a prolonged dry spell early in the year and I have been caught out by Mistress May once again, I really must do better next year, get all the soaker hoses and raised bed irrigation fitted very early on and save my plants the stress of a erratic water supply.
I am however pleased with the progress in the garden. We have had an over abundance of lettuce in different colours and shapes, the first harvests of potatoes (Swift was the variety this year and I am told they were very tasty) early broad beans and a new one to the garden... turnip tops, the Italians grow and eat these - very tasty they are too! Simply sow the seed thickly and harvest while lush and fleshy, I used the variety Purple Top Milan. Another welcome surprise where the best Radishes I have eaten, I do not even like radishes but these were sweet and crunchy. Rudi was the variety; remember to harvest before the stems go ‘hairy’ and the radishes become woody. Great for quick turnaround crops in wee spaces.
Chard and Leaf beet are going over by the end of the month so cut them back hard and regular before they do, as when they ‘bolt’ and go to seed they are not as nice to eat....chickens love them though along with any Chickweed or Fat Hen you pull out the patch. They will make it in to one of the best compost accelerators to add to your heap.
Lady May is also a tease, looking at green strawberries and green tomatoes I find myself wishing away the transitional days of late spring and early unsettled summer for want of longer sunnier warmer spells to ripen my crops. To do this though is a fool’s errand as already the lush green is fading as the gardening year marches on apace.
Keep in mind those winter days and sow more of your Brassica, Broccoli and Kale, in the dark days they will prove you were prudent to think so far ahead!
What is a summer without salads?
What is a salad without lettuce?
Keep a steady supply with regular sowings, we trialled the ‘Patio Grow’ (seen here) with great success, less slug damage and cleaner harvests!
Remember as Derby Day arrives to clip the box hedging, hang codling moth traps, grab your secateurs and thin autumn raspberries for the best crops of tasty big berries.
What will June bring? I hope some more rain (and so to the east anglian farmers). Time to set up the irrigation systems me thinks!