3 Jun 2014

Garden Share Collective: May, warts and all.



Ah, the merry month of May! It's usually around this time of year that I start to panic over all matters relating to gardening. (Possibly that also applies to June.) A glimpse into other blogs reveals the perfect lettuces, new potatoes and flowering tomatoes of other UK growers while I battle garden pests and the relentless ticking of time and remember (too late?) that I haven't planted any sweet corn, again. It's that time thing that gets me every year.  In a large community garden, there's always something that needs attending to, usually at the expense of the veg garden.

At the end of a month of unpredictable weather, and despite careful calculations made in February, there are so many jobs waiting for my attention.  My potatoes need topping up with soil.  The shady corner needs weeding, as does the fruit tree border.  I have way too many strawberries; they need to be thinned out and have straw put underneath. Lettuce needs to be resown. I have to concede that my hopes for a beautiful cut flower patch are unlikely to succeed this year as the seedlings are still in plug trays. (There's always next year!) The second wave of peas needs to be started. I'm not sure I've grown enough mange tout. My sweet peas are not growing well. Really, it's enough to make you want to throw in the towel and retire to the sofa to eat cake.

Apple cinnamon cake with apple ring and demerara topping, link below

But let's look on the bright side! Accentuate the positive is one of my mottos, it makes for a much nicer life. Bees have been buzzing around, finding plenty of nectar. Ladybirds and hoverflies are also abundant. Poppies and cornflowers have opened, the linaria (toadflax) has seeded itself around, I've added a wonderful tangerine Geum from Chelsea to the garden, peas are starting to pod and at least one of my courgettes is still standing. Okay, so the sunflowers have been chomped but let's move on from that.  I'm going to resow.

In three weeks, we'll be at looking at Midsummer's Day and the days will imperceptibly start to shorten.  Gosh that's a sobering thought!  Or is it?  In the UK, we've still got four good months to grow and resow as the weather is often good until the end of September. I, for one, am going to need a good summer.

While I'm grateful for the rain showers that water the garden, the result is that my bush beans have been spectacularly slugged. I thought twelve plants would be more than enough; four have disappeared to a stump in the past week, along with the marigolds I planted as pest deterrents. Even my nasturtium leaves are being munched and these are usually left alone. I picked off 4 fat orange early diners at dusk only yesterday evening. Luckily I have a few spare plants. Slugs have also been sighted on the hairy poppy leaves in drizzly broad daylight - have they no shame?


The peas are being largely ignored for now (say it quietly) as are the broad (fava) beans, although the latter have to be regularly zapped with a liquid soap solution to keep black aphids away.  So, although I don't have any mature pods yet, I hope that I'll be eating home-grown peas and broad beans by the end of June.

Aha! There's that lovely Totally Tangerine geum being propped up by the beans.

I'm also growing this Golden Sweet mange-tout (seeds from the Real Seed company).  I hope it tastes as good as it looks - I love the purple flowers against the yellow-green foliage; these will soon become golden pods - something to look forward to in June.



My tomatoes are still quite small.  I'm now growing five varieties as I couldn't resist buying a grafted black tomato 'Indigo Rose' from the Suttons stand at Chelsea. I'll keep a few plants on my balcony and the rest will go into ring culture pots in the garden - with a good slick of petroleum jelly around the pot to keep slugs at bay!

Days of hot sunshine followed by days of rain have seen off my spinach and pak choi - both have now bolted; the spinach has been pulled up but I've rather enjoyed eating the peppery flowers of the pak choi with salads.  The lamb's lettuce is doing really well, as are all the balcony salads - now joined by tiny little watercress plants - I always thought running water was needed to grow this lovely peppery leaf and it's a revelation to me to discover that it's not!



The big thrill of the past month is seeing buds appear on the Violette de Provence artichoke! Not that that in itself is surprising, it's just that I grew this from a seed, so satisfying. I confess I've never eaten artichoke - it's expensive in the shops (if you can get it) and can be slightly intimidating to cook and eat if, like me, you have no idea how to go about this. This video from Sarah Raven gives an excellent tutorial plus recipe for a delicious dipping sauce.  So, what better than to tackle an artichoke in the privacy of your own kitchen by growing your own. Even if I find that I don't like the taste, it's a plant that looks wonderful left to flower with large purple heads that the bees love.

Top: Honeyberry and Mara des Bois strawberries.
Lastly, how's the fruit doing? There's lots of green fruit on the raspberry canes and redcurrant bushes; I've already eaten a few ripe strawberries (the ones the slugs didn't get to first) and a few honeyberries - I'm not sure about these as I was expecting blueberry with a hint of honey; instead they're quite sharp in flavour but were definitely ripe for picking. The jury's out on these.  No sign of any goosegogs yet, maybe next year; apples/cherries, yes; plums/pears, no. Physalis (Cape Gooseberries), yes! I'm really looking forward to these! Plus the plant has the most strokeable velvety leaves.



So, what's ahead for June?

Get round to fencing/netting off the garden against cats
Sow sweet corn/climbing beans/coriander/parsley.
Sow more peas/mange-tout/calendula/sunflowers
Sow more lettuce/sorrel.
Plant out tomatoes
Pot up plugs of winter broccoli and romanesco cauliflowers
Keep weeding
Enjoy the garden!

And on warm sunny days appreciate all the good bugs that are helping out …



I always bookmark a good looking cake when I see it.  This one from Claire at Things{we}Make blog is delicious but I'm not a fan of frosting so, instead, used fresh apple rings and a good crunch of demerara sugar over the top before baking. It was divine. And equally yummy as a pudding with custard.

21 comments:

  1. I loved seeing what has been going on in your patch in May. Everything looks as it is coming on well with you despite the rain and the slugs ! I always find May and June are also my busiest times at work and I don't get out in the garden as much as I would like too. It's not a welcoming thought that the longest day is heading fast towards us! Your cake looks delicious too. Sarah x

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I think I'm more aware of what needs to be done rather than what I've achieved so far. It seems we're all in the same boat, timewise. Although my work is steady, my college work is a bit overwhelming at the moment and it's all a big juggling act. Lucky we enjoy gardening, it will get us back out there, regardless of time available!! x

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  2. Such a positive post, Caro, in the face of such adversity! I think it has been a good year for slugs so far. What we really need now is some sunshine so that we can actually enjoy our gardens. I love sitting outside in the evenings, "communing with nature" (and sipping a glass of wine!), but we get precious little opportunity for that most years. Good luck with the Artichokes, btw; I have never grown them because they would take up too much of my precious space, but I have prepared and eaten fresh ones from the market. What a pfaff! I would never have thought a vegetable could produce so little to eat while generating so much to throw away! I also decided that I am not particularly fond of eating them,

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    1. Thanks, Mark - I did wonder if the post was a bit on the doom and gloom side! Gosh, I so agree with you, sitting out in the garden is what it's all about. The artichoke is taking up space but no more than the rhubarb - haha, soon there won't be any room for lettuce! I might move the plant at the end of the year to a more ornamental border. It would look grand under the palm tree (a rather overgrown Cordyline australis, so not a proper palm tree at all!)

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  3. Enjoy the process Caro, garden chores never end but the journey is fun!

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    1. Hopefully I'll feel that way again soon, guys!

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  4. It's all looking pretty good, despite the slugs. And it's a very comforting thought that there are still four good months of growing time left. CJ xx

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    1. Yes, that's a heartening thought isn't it? Thanks, CJ, you're garden is looking very organised - but with 3 boys to supervise, organised is probably the best way to go!

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  5. If it makes you feel better - you have some things ahead of us. Our honeyberries are still green ( I hope I'm not as disappointed as you with them but the gooseberries are swelling nicely. No flowers yet on our mangetout and the baby pears have either disappeared or gone black.

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    1. I'm definitely gardening in a micro-climate here, Sue. Between blocks of flats, it can get pretty windy then with the rain and sunshine, the plants are being pushed along to get on with it. I actually ate a couple of first mange-tout pods yesterday - they were delicious, sweet and crunchy! I'm going to start some more off - with only 4 plants on the go, that's obviously not going to be enough! My plums have done the same as your pears. Disappointing.

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  6. The broad beans look so stunning, and the artichoke too. Both of them could be planted on highland tropics here. And once more, I have never eaten the artichoke, I have no idea about the taste. Your garden look so lovely! Happy gardening!

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    1. Thank you Endah. Although I can take very little credit for those as they're beautiful plants. I'll let you know about the artichoke taste when I've cooked it! Happy gardening to you too!

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  7. A most enjoyable post, and one that I can certainly empathise with. There have been plenty of blog posts from fellow gardeners about the problems with slugs, snails and the weather.
    I've still to sow my sweetcorn, and runner bean, seeds.
    It's still way too early to throw in the towel and retire to the sofa! A change in the weather and I'm sure that it will be a different, and much better, story in a few weeks time. Happy gardening, Flighty xx

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    1. Flighty, you've made me feel so much better about being behind with my sowing! And, of course, yes once I've crossed a few chores off the list, things will feel much better. Slugs eating carefully nurtured plants is very disappointing isn't it? Happy gardening to you too, fingers crossed for better weather! xx

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  8. Well your post has cheered me up no end... I am not alone!

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    1. Haha! A problem shared is a problem halved and all that! We'll be singing from the same sheet when the harvests start rolling in! xx

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  9. Wow you've been busy. Gardening is that frustrating mix of triumph and disaster isn't it? I have lost a beautiful row of sugar snap peas which were 4ft tall. They've been chewed just above the base. I think it might be mice. :(( I'm growing 'Indigo Rose' too. It'll be good to compare notes. The most frustrating thing I find is if I lose a plant I don't always have something to replace it with and I hate having a bare patch that could be growing something productive. I'm going to have a go at sow sowings today - I don't normally sow many crop after the end of May but I've been envious of those with crops into autumn. Lets just hope we don't get an early frost. I can't believe the night will start to get darker again in only 3 weeks. :( The thing about Britain is we don't tend to get the best weather when the nights are at their longest. I always think it's such a pity we don't get to appreciate them more with a spot of barmy weather. Anyway continuing the weather obsession I hope the weather is dry this weekend so we can all get and and garden. x

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    1. Part of the frustration is being busy and not seeing the results you wanted, Welly. I don't know about you, but I always have a vision in my head of what the garden should be like and then work hard towards that end only to be thwarted by different pests every year! Mice! Goodness, poor you! I know we have them here but I think the prowling cats and foxes keep them away from the veg. I think it's worth re-sowing on the offchance of a prolonged warm autumn. I keep hoping for a repeat of the year I was able to pick and eat balcony grown tomatoes on New Year's Day!

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  10. I think we all have our ups and downs....I have peach curl...aphid infestations and slugs galore...my parsnips have vanished and my courgettes are going the same way....BUT I have melons!
    Lovely to hear it's all going, I simply love the pie and the artichoke!!!xxx

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    1. Melons! Wow! I tried to grow those a couple of years ago, it was an unmitigated disaster! I find it hilarious that what one can grow the others can't. I don't bother with parsnips but I think it will be a shame if you can't have even a taste of courgettes, especially as one plant will usually give more than enough fruits! And don't get me started on the aphids …. grrrr. Although the Ecover spray is working quite well, actually … :) xx

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  11. The slugs are out in force at the moment, aren't they? My garden doesn't usually suffer too badly but they're clinging to the potato haulms in broad daylight, and they've been munching on things in the greenhouse too. You seem to be ahead of me in some things, no ripe strawberries here yet.

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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