AN EARLY HARVEST BEGINS
The 2017 weather has been unbelievable for gardeners so far. The long dry spring with plenty sun warmed up the soil, then just when we needed some moisture for planting, down came the rain. This was followed by a few dry sunny days. Perfect for planting and sowing, but moisture had just gone down a few inches with dry soil underneath, but worry not, along came another couple of days of torrential rain to make up the deficit. You could not wish for better weather.
So every dry sunny day let us catch up with numerous gardening tasks.
This has been perfect growing weather, so salads such as lettuce, radish, rocket and spring onions matured early and harvesting started at the end of May. Fresh salads picked twenty minutes before they are on the plate could not be more tasty and healthy.
However salads do not last long as they all mature together and after about three weeks they are gone, so successional sowings are made to cover the summer and autumn periods. Fast maturing salads can be intercropped between slower growing crops with wide spacings such as sweet corn and brussels sprouts. Other space becomes available when existing salads are cleared and early potatoes start to get lifted.
Casablanca first early potatoes had the first sample shaws dug up at the end of May. Although this is a salad potato, size was still on the small side but hopefully will improve after another week. The small spuds were delicious and although the crops harvested early lacked in size, the freshness and flavour made it well worth while.
|Lettuce Lollo Rosso|
Other young seedlings such as carrots, turnip, Swedes, beetroot, mizuna and all the salad successional sowings are in need of thinning, but the warm sunny days made this quite a pleasant task. I usually perform thinning over two operations to allow for any pest damage taking out a few more plants.
Pea Kelvedon Wonder is now three feet tall and full of flowers and a later sowing of Hurst Green Shaft is well through the ground and looking strong. These will soon need stakes, netting or other means to support them.
|Currant leaf blister aphid|
There is always a feeling of summer has arrived once the first strawberries are ripe for picking. Last year I started towards the end of May, but this year with different varieties my first berries had to wait till the first week in June. Albion my autumn fruiting variety was the first to fruit. Weird !!!
Redcurrants have put on a lot of summer growth so some spur pruning will be done to let the light into the ripening bunches. The tops of most shoots have been infected by the leaf blister aphid, but as these will all get cut back with the summer pruning it will not be a problem.
Tall bearded flag iris are stealing the show for early summer, but some varieties that fail to impress or have weak stems causing them to fall over when it rains, will be discarded and new varieties purchased in autumn.
|Iris Dusky Challenger|
|Iris Jean Price|
As well as the iris both bush, shrub and climbing roses are at their best, and it is difficult to decide where our favourite spot is. The large shrub Ispahan, and the climbers Mme Alfred Carriere, Dublin Bay and Gertrude Jekyll are all performing to script. They are very reliable and never let us down.
A small infestation of greenfly and some rose mildew and rust made an appearance so the sprayer came out to keep the bushes healthy.
A new compost heap was started in January and after turning it over twice it is now ready for use for mulching fruit trees and bushes and our courgettes and pumpkins.
If young leeks have put on enough growth and are now about nine inches tall and a fair thickness they can be lifted for transplanting to their permanent positions. I take out a shallow furrow then put deep dibble holes about four to six inches apart along the row. Lift the young leeks and give them a top and tail and drop them into the dibbled holes. Water them in and let them get on with it.