Summer veg and self-sown seeds

It’s been a week of heat and high humidity, moody skies and thunderstorms. The garden is growing like a rainforest and the summer harvest has begun.

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We’ve been eating the ‘Green Imperial’ broad beans for several weeks now, first as tiny pods steamed whole (well worth trying, they’re delicious) and now as beans. Despite having been bashed by wind and torrential rain, they are cropping well.

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The peas,  both the ‘Early Onward’ and ‘Douce Provence’ are coming so thick and fast it’s a job to keep up with them and needless to say several pods go missing between garden and kitchen… Still waiting for the pink flowers to open on my girlie purple-podded peas, though.

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We decided to grow a ‘proper’ first early potato this year instead off our usual choice (Charlotte), these ‘Pentland Javelin’ are melt-in-the-mouth scrumptious, with a second early ‘Nicola’ following on behind.

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The ‘Latino’ courgettes have been fruiting for several weeks now, they have a lovely nutty flavour either raw or cooked. No chance of them getting anywhere near marrow size, we’re picking and scoffing daily.

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The two rows of Japanese ‘Hi-Walker’ onions I planted in autumn were trashed by a mole and I’m really cursing the little fiend now as the few that have survived have grown well and are doing exactly what they’re meant to do – filling the gap between the stored onions and this year’s crop. Definitely one to try again, moles permitting.

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Sticking with the onion family, the garlic has died off very early this year, I’m not sure whether it will keep growing now but will delay harvesting it in the hope the bulbs might swell a little bit more.

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Why are spring onions so slow? I planted a mix of white ‘Silverskin’ and red ‘Crimson Forest’ weeks ago, it feels like we should be tucking in by now but they’re still too tiny.

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We have a good succession of salad leaves – the usual reliable culprits – but these are a couple of new varieties I’m trying this year: radicchio ‘Palla Rossa’ and in the foreground something called ‘Par-cel’ which is parsley with a celery flavour.

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Last year I planted some French ‘Navet Plat Hatif’ turnips and not one germinated. Better news this year: despite extensive flea beetle damage to the leaves, there is a good row of tender purple babies ready to be eaten. I’ve found a recipe for them cooked with honey and mustard which sounds like something that needs to be done.

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Not such good news on the beetroot front where only three of my ‘Plate d’Egypte’ have grown. Roger will be pleased as he’s not a fan, I shall just have to savour the lonely little survivors myself.

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What a difference some better weather has made to the more tender plants. The sad tomato plants in the flower border have suddenly perked up and doubled in size,

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while in the tunnel fruits are setting and swelling rapidly. These are a cherry variety called ‘Bambino’ which I’m trying instead of ‘Sungold’ this year.

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The ‘Hunter’ butternut squashes are setting fruit in the tunnel

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and the outdoor varieties (this is ‘Stripetti’) have set out to take over the garden.

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There is already a good crop of chillies on the ‘Long Slim’ and ‘Koloksai Paprika’ varieties.

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Three out of four of the ‘Green Globe’ artichokes I raised from seed last year made it through the winter and all are about to flower. Yum!

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I must admit I wondered whether we would have any climbing beans this year as the slugs hit the young plants so hard . . . but they’re romping away now, the purple ‘Cosse Violette’ are halfway up their wigwams with the borlotti ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ not far behind. Nice try, slugs, but you’ve lost this round!

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The flower garden is full of poppies this year, very apt for the D-Day commemorative events held in northern France last week and the centenary of the start of World War I.

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In fact, much of the colour in the garden at the moment is down to self-set annuals. This is my favourite guide to flower gardening: Year 1 – plant lots of annual seeds; Year 2 and beyond – do nothing and let nature take its course.

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Lazy, I know – but how could I improve on this? 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Summer veg and self-sown seeds

  1. Looking great! You are so far ahead of us here in Scotland. I’m in year 1 of the artichoke project, same variety as you, and have just planted out nine plants as I suspect not all of them will make it. What did you do with the plants in the winter? Did you cut back and cover with fleece? How big did they get in year 1? Thanks for your help!

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    • Hi. It’s amazing what a few hundred miles do to the climate, we do have quite an advantage here! I must admit my artichokes looked sad little things when they went in the ground, I didn’t plant them until autumn which was probably all wrong and they were about 10cm high with 6 or so leaves. I just left them like that, didn’t cut back but mulched the bed with a very thick layer of straw thinking to pile it over them when the crowns died back . . . which they didn’t, so they stayed exposed all winter! One died back quickly and didn’t reappear, the others have grown like stink in the last few weeks. I suspect in Scotland they will need more coddling, we had a very mild winter here so they were fine. Do you have a polytunnel? We grew them very successfully for many years on top of a windswept Welsh hillside at one end of a polytunnel, they flowered without fail and were a real treat. Good luck!

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  2. Heartened to hear you’ve had success with them in Wales. We don’t have a polytunnel (bit windy for that), but I’m thinking of getting one of these mini ones to cover the row of artichokes. Our winters are pretty mild here, only had three nights of frost this year, but very windy so protection of some sort will be needed. And how often do you need to feed the artichokes – are they hungry? Thanks for your help!

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    • Yep, wind was our biggest problem in Wales (maybe I should rephrase that?!!), we struggled with winter brassicas a lot of the time because they were wind-burned and literally blown out of the ground. As for feeding artichokes, I have no idea – I am the most unprofessional, laziest gardener around!- I just add plenty of rotted muck and compost to the soil and hope it works! 🙂

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  3. Love the self sown annuals, I am trying much the same idea in the border I tend for local Age Concern, but I have included wild flowers in the mix

    Mine is not as impressive as yours, mainly because it was trampled on by volunteers painting the fence behind it. Have resown using whatever I had, but I have high hopes for later in the year

    My globe artichoke suffered from same fate, but is at least growing again, but doubt it will flower this year

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    • Oh, it’s not helpful when your borders are trampled! Fingers crossed your second sowing will go well, I think it’s a lovely way to grow flowers and they’re always so colourful and full of insects – Sarah Raven would be proud of us!

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  4. Is that a magic poly tunnel you have it seems to do time travel – everything looks so far on.

    I am green with envy of your artichokes they look amazing in fact your whole garden is looking brill. I love the annuals they scream ‘happy’. I’m afraid my veggie plot is a bit down the priority list at the moment at least the soft fruit just gets on and produces without any help from me – the best kind of gardening!

    Hope you’re getting a bit more rain than us I hate watering anything after it’s established but three weeks is a long time without a drink.

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    • I think the tunnel is doing well this year because of the mild spring, I stuffed things in early and they haven’t looked back. Possibly also because it’s not as crammed as last year, I’ve evicted most of the toms to the flower garden and banned cucumbers altogether! Hope you get some rain soon, it’s awful watching everything struggle, especially if it’s hot. There’s no rain at all in the foreseeable future for us now so I think we’ll be going the same way as you. Enjoy your soft fruit – food without work is pure bliss! 🙂

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