Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - May 2012

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st May 2012


I know we Brits always talk about the weather but it does dictate to us gardeners what we can and can’t do and when..... but finally it is being kind to us and after a cold and wet start to the month here we are at the end of the month with a heatwave and now more rain!  All the plants have shot up after the sunshine and it is a delight to see.

May is always a busy month in the Harrod Horticultural calendar as well as in our kitchen garden too. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the highlights of the year for us and we are thrilled this year to have received two awards – a Certificate of Commendation for our stand and winning first prize for the Garden Product of the Year for our new Harrod Slot and Lock® connector range.  Lynn, our Kitchen Gardener & Horticulturalist is back in the garden after visiting Chelsea during build-up week to assist with the planting up of the Harrod Horticultural stand. After coping with the wet and muddy conditions at Chelsea during build-up she is happy to be back in the sunny garden and is working like a mad woman to get everything planted out now the warm weather is here. 

Our variety of courgette plants we talked about last month have been planted out this week in the cucurbit bed, they are looking very healthy at the moment, we are hoping they stay that way.  Vigilant patrols for slugs and snails are required – Lynn is getting very clever and knows where they hide!

We are going vertical this year in the kitchen garden!  We have got numerous climbing beans,  climbing courgettes, and squash trailing across our new prototype Squash/Cucumber Climbing Frame leaving more ground room for other delicious vegetables.

Our Rhubarb has forced up two flower stalks which we unfortunately have had to remove.  This is good practice to encourage the plant to continue producing edible stems and to ensure a good crop next year.

We have got new strawberry plants in this year as our plants were 3 years old and were starting to lose their vigour.  Lynn potted up all the runners from last year and these all have tiny fruit on them with the exception of an early variety that were kept in the greenhouse - we have already picked strawberries from these – and sweet they were too!  We have got them covered with one of the new Slot and Lock® Strawberry cages as protection from the birds.

Our potatoes are growing well and have enjoyed the sunshine and showers this month.  Regular earthing up is being done and hopefully soon we will be enjoying the taste of some of our 1st earlies.

We have planted out some Dwarf French Beans ‘Aiguillon’ & Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ in a 2ft x 6ft Superior Raised Bed, these are growing well and have been covered with a net just to keep the pigeons away. This bed is semi in the shade so it’s ideal to grow crops that don’t like full sun.

We picked our first cucumber today from the greenhouse – the variety Melen F1 produces small smooth fruit about 6” long so perfect size for one meal. They are crisp and juicy and taste delicious so definitely one for you to try.  Planted up in one of the new Elho coloured pots they really make the place look cheery – look out for the red pot (chilli) and the yellow pot (yellow pepper) in the coming months!

Chilli Peppers and Sweet Peppers have suddenly put a spurt on in the Chilligrows – these are just fantastic and take all the worry away from pots drying out as they are self watering.  If you like your chillies, peppers or aubergines – you need to try one of these or a Quadgrow!

All our Tomatoes have finally been planted some are in our new Tomato Success Kits so we are able to move these around in the greenhouse as required as there is not much spare room in there!  The lean to greenhouse is looking good with it’s new cover and with the Pomodoro tomatoes planted up, this is a real sun spot so the toms should come on great guns in there.

Our sweet peas were a bit late being planted up the new style black steel obelisks but I’m sure they will soon catch up and add a bit of colour to the kitchen garden – I will include some photographs of them in bloom during the summer months.

Some not so good news to report – unfortunately our garlic crop has got rust - the dismal wet spring weather is to blame for this.  There is not much an organic gardener can do about rust once it takes hold apart from snipping off the affected leaves and disposing of them.  Rust is a fungal disease and the spores travel in the wind so it’s vital to get rid of them and not put them in the compost bin.

A slow worm was sited in the garden this month, maybe all the rainfall followed by the lovely sunshine has brought him out of hiding. Slow-worms eat bugs and other pests so are always welcome around here!  Not so keen on snakes though!

We also have a Blue Tit nesting in one of the new bird boxes we placed around the garden this Spring, we were a bit late putting them up so we are surprised to see the parents flying in and out of the nest to feed their young.  From the noise the chicks make when being fed there must be quite a few in there.  Who needs to watch Springwatch on the TV we just need to get one of those cameras to spy on them!

We hope you all enjoy the Jubilee weekend either celebrating with a street party or pottering around in the garden!

Here’s what we’ve got planned for June here in the kitchen garden:-

• Finish off our new Herb Parterre Garden

• Sow successional crops of lettuces, salads, carrots, beans & beetroot.

• Check up that all our irrigation systems are working well.

• Be vigilant with regular pest patrols.

• Training and tending to tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in greenhouse.

• Start to feed peppers, chillis and aubergines in the greenhouse.

• Tidy up our early cropping strawberries and cut back foliage above the crown (unless they are still cropping!)

• Enjoy some early cropping salad, fruit & vegetables!

And if you're planning to spend more time in the garden growing your own this year, you can pick up loads of handy tips by using the expertise we've got to hand. We're always here to offer advice and support - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!   

We're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use Twitter or Facebook to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!

Our 116-page Summer 2012 catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas, products and solutions to the problems every gardener faces, plus plenty oif more relaxing ideas to help you make the most of the hard work you put into the garden during spring.

There's even a 19 page Garden Structure section for all your arches, obelisks, plant supports and much more - if you haven't already, request a copy and find it on your doormat in a couple of days time.

Happy gardening!