It’s been a while coming to get a veg update together, there’s quite a bit growing now (even including the first few things harvested from the newly built raised beds). A tough start to the year gave some hard lessons about when to start sowing – which I will remember for next year. Once the weather settled and things got flowing a lot of the veg has started to come on well but there have been problems as well; as you would expect. As promised I will give an update on my giant pumpkin attempt which had a very shaky start, but after some slow growth has now started to pick up the pace a little.
First off, the pest problems! it has been annoying and at times a little demoralising being responsible for some crop loss and generally being a pain. So what pest is this – this years public enemy number one is a velvet menace – the mole! Of the 14 beds, this underground pain in the wotsits has been in them all. In some respects I suppose it is a good thing – plenty of worms means the soil can’t be too bad; which may well be what has attracted my mole nemesis. The problem being it either directly disturbs seed or seedlings preventing germination or killing smaller seedlings, or the warren of tunnels helps things dry out. I have said before how sandy my soil is so anything that helps it dry is not helping me. My other usual issue is of the weed variety – Horse tail, which has come up even through the weed suppressant material and bark chips, not an entire surprise but irksome. This is one weed I will likely never be rid of, for me it presents a trio of issues making it frustrating and meaning it requires lots of time. That trio are – growing through plants, being unsightly and that its vigour can overwhelm some plants putting them in shade and at a disadvantage. I will persist with pulling it out as much as possible to try and weaken it or at least keep it under some sense of control.
Not all the crops have started off well – the onions have struggled and I think I will end up with a poor crop. I can’t be sure why, but starting them early in modules and then getting hit by the cold snap is the most obvious reason for them under performing. Next year I will use modules again but delay this until sometime during mid March give or take. The yard long beans which I have been excited about so far are very slow to get going, the runner and climbing beans are out pacing them by some distance with a few flowers on the runners already. The dwarf beans are also going nicely – three varieties in total and all growing well at the moment, beans are a favourite so glad these are all doing well. The broad beans are also coming along with the first pods now having been harvested – I have had some black fly but not too serious thankfully. The first sowing of peas are also doing nicely – the purple podded variety have grown tall – 5-6 feet or so which have dwarfed the hurst greenshaft next to them. Not sure how many of these will get from the garden into the house – the best way to eat them is straight off the vine and is something I remember doing from a young age.
The potatoes this year are all growing nicely, of about 40 planted I think 38 have come up. The first root of bambino produced a hefty 888 grams, subsequent roots in the 480-500gram area. A lot of new varieties this year and hoping to find a good first early for my garden. Charlotte was the intention this year (but that was sold out at the potato day I attended )so bambino is the main hope on the early front. A few other crops coming along in the raised beds include: carrots, beetroot, and courgette. Those that follow me on twitter will know I have already picked the first of the courgettes this year – the plant is performing very well. A few salad leaves including rocket, mizuna, coriander, land cress and three type of lettuce are all being used now – hard to keep up with these even when sown in small quantities. The tiger nuts seem to be putting on decent growth since being planted out, it will be interesting to see what sort of yield they produce and of course the all important taste.
A few more outdoor crops to mention that are generally performing well – quite satisfying to go from the empty beds of February to an increasing sea of green foliage and flowers. Another of the unusual crops – tomatillos are growing well, they will need some extra support very soon and hopefully some of the many flowers will have been pollinated for a harvest later. Sweetcorn is also now growing on well after some week germination this year – it took two sowings to get the few plants I am growing. The rooted parsley (and just behind it the parsnips) are also germinating well with plenty of growth on the parsley in particular. Other crops including butternut squash, leeks, kohlrabi, cabbage and cauliflower are doing their thing and filling out, the squash a little slow to get going but picking up pace as well now A second sowing of some of the cabbage and cauliflower have just been pricked out and potted on – they will go in the ground once a little larger and some space from the early potatoes becomes available. The last of the outdoor crops to mention are the sweet potatoes which have started to produce some decent top growth now as well – extra vines forming as well as a strong leader. After a tip on twitter I have surrounded these on three sides with some wire netting to train up any vines that reach that far. This should allow them to soak up more sun and heat hopefully resulting in some tubers at the end of the year bigger than a golf ball, time will tell.
The polytunnel is filled out fully with tomatoes and some companion plants, the conversion to grow in the ground rather than pots is resulting in good strong growth generally. Fitting 28 plants in an 8×15 foot polytunnel is a tight squeeze so next year I might just take that number down a small amount – maybe to 22-24. The last companion plant to go in is the basil which is growing slower at the moment. The campanula and nasturtium are both doing well – once I remove a few lower leaves from the tomatoes these should add some colour into the space. The greenhouse plants – pepper, chilli and aubergine being grown in pots this year – considering changing this to in the ground over winter as well. The chillis are behind the peppers and aubergine at the moment but should pick up as the season progresses. I had to use my reserve cucumber plant (this actually is in the ground) after the first wilted badly after a few days – when removed it seemed to have lost any root growth. Happily the second plant – iznik, has taken to the space with no problems which makes the first failure slightly baffling.
The last thing to talk about then is the giant pumpkin – this has not gone smoothly and although now sowing signs of picking up to this point has been in the balance. The first seed germinated fine but got a little leggy being kept indoors due to the dodgy start to the year. When I did move it to the greenhouse it died that day – the courgettes and cucumber seedlings in the greenhouse were fine so this did catch me out. Fortunately the second seed germinated when planted soon after and grew on well in it’s pot before being moved out 3-4 weeks ago. The space was prepared earlier in the year with a roughly 3 foot cube being dug out and back filled with a few barrows of manure and home made compost; to create a good deep planting space. On planting out it did suffered some drooping initially – which recovered by the end of the day. The next morning after a bit of rain overnight I found one leaf had snapped – very disappointing and put me on edge again in case this caused a failure. Fortunately the plant has survived this set back and is now showing signs of putting on some noticable growth again. After no real target weight in mind – initially I was simply thinking ‘too big to lift by myself’ a quick twitter chat with the pumpkin prince Matt Oliver the aim now is to reach 300 pounds. Given the iffy start this could be more of a challenge than first anticipated but with things settling a bit now time will tell. I have a few other things in mind to do which should help achieve the goal – we will see how it goes through the summer now.
This is more than enough chatter from me and a longer post than I had intended – difficult to keep it short with such a variety going on. If I can I will try to break it down more and focus on a few crops in future updates!