|Now there's a beautiful sight - bug free broad bean tops!|
You've got to love June for the lushness of the garden! I'm finding lots to sigh with pleasure over, despite June having been a completely manic month for me: going to shows (GrowLondon and Hampton Court), normal working life, son home from uni, masses of emergency watering needed (not of the boy. Although … ) and, at the beginning of the month, I was away in Hampshire for a couple of weeks because my elderly Mum was hospitalised after a fall, now safely back home with my dad.
There hasn't been a lot of time for gardening so I can thank my perennial veg and early sowings for food on the table. I've recently let the asparagus grow into fronds as I turned towards artichokes for a meal time treat. (Yes, I'm now a dab hand at cooking artichokes which is not as fiddly as it seems.) Kales and mange tout have been abundant and the broad bean pods are filling out nicely. In fact, they've filled out so quickly with regular watering and sunshine that I may pop down to the garden in a moment to see if any are ready for picking. Like everyone else, I've found black aphids to be prolific this year. Not every plant was affected but as I felt the need for some deep watering last Friday after days of tropical heat, I linked up the four hosepipes needed to reach the garden, connected these to a far away tap and squirted and squished the aphids on my beans into extinction. Then it rained all night. Sod's Law and all that. It was still worth the effort to have clean, bug-free beans. (Plus, the tops are delicious lightly steamed with butter, salt and a grind of pepper.)
With the warm/hot weather, it's been even more of a joy to while away the still-long evenings in the cool of the garden. There's a lot to catch up on but I've gradually been moving plants off my balcony and into the ground. Timing has been crucial for this; when I took the beans and achocha down to transplant, it was too windy. When I took the tomatoes down, the soil was like dust. When I planted out flowers, there was just enough light rain to bring the slugs out. The usual run of the mill stuff we gardeners face.
Unbelievably, I still have more tomatoes to go out (multiple plants of 10 varieties - that's what happens when old seed stock is used up) and a courgette which I hope won't be too pot bound to grow successfully. The autumn Cavolo Nero in pots is ready to go out, which is just as well as one of the current Cavolos is in flower. I'm not wasting these flowers, they're delicious in a salad (if they make it that far - I usually munch on them as I garden.)
I also want to sow seeds for more beetroot, peas and chard as the last lot have finished. It feels as though the gardening year is running away but it's only just July so there's still plenty of opportunity for planting and sowing. And, in a few weeks, I hope to be eating potatoes, broad and french beans, the first of my cherry tomatoes and, by mid-August, even sweet corn. The preserving jars are being made ready … :o) (I have a great recipe for pickled beans which I'll post when the french beans are ready.)
The strawberries have not been good. Oh, there's been plenty of fruit but it's all been small and disappointing. I don't think there's anything wrong with the varieties I'm growing, it's the lack of water. Until I can properly sort that out, I'm thinking of giving up on strawberries. Raspberries, on the other hand, never fail to please! My autumn raspberries have been fruiting for the past few weeks - they have a tendency to start in June and fruit until November. It starts with just a little bowlful now and again to which I can now add blueberries and honeyberries … and cherries if I can find a way of making sour cherries more palatable. I've been reading that sour cherries are best for cooking as the levels of sweetness can be adjusted. Some research and practise is needed, obviously, after last year's major fail of a cherry crumble.
And, to end on a high note - I have seen pears! Admittedly only two or three but, hey, that's a start. And enough to earn the trees a reprieve. If only there was also some plums … I'm going to a summer fruit pruning workshop at Wisley this coming weekend and you know I'll be reporting back with my findings!