Sunday, 31 May 2015



Summer is a bit late this year so I have been in no rush to plant out my sweet corn, courgettes, pumpkins or runner beans. Early June still gives plenty of time for these crops which will soon put on strong growth once the warmer weather arrives. Most of these plants have been raised from seed inside on a warm windowsill, then after germination, transferred to the cold greenhouse. It was late May before the weather warmed up sufficiently to put them outdoors for hardening off.
In the meantime land allocated for them has had a clover green manure crop sown down in March. Growth was quite slow this year due to lack of warmth, but eventually I got quite a thick stand of clover for digging in a fortnight ahead of planting.

Sweet corn
The ground was raked level and some fertiliser added. I usually take out a shallow furrow to mark the rows. Sweet corn was planted in one large square block with plants spaced about eighteen inches apart each way. The plants require wind pollination as the female cobs get their pollen from the male tassels. If the land is in good heart and kept weeded and watered in any dry spells they should be just fine as they are little troubled by pests or diseases.

Pumpkins and Courgettes
These both like the same 
growing conditions of well cultivated and 
composted soil, added fertiliser and watering and feeding in summer. Again they do not suffer much pests or diseases though mice can nibble young courgettes. Allow plenty of room for them to grow with spacing plants three feet apart. Two courgette plants are quite enough for normal use and three plants for a larger family with ample spare courgettes to hand out to anyone passing by the plot. In a good summer they can produce an embarrassing number of courgettes, and when they grow too big to use as a delicacy because you are not eating them fast enough, find a good soup recipe as this is not only delicious and very healthy, but any surplus can be frozen and stored. I grow about five pumpkin plants and try to get one or two fruits from each. When growth starts to wander all over the plot it is time for a wee prune provided you have got a couple of decent sized fruits. Harvest them once they have attained the bright orange colour usually towards the end of October and store them in a cool but frost free place. They should last till the following spring. With large pumpkins it is best to cut them up into smaller slices for roasting then the skin is easy to remove. The flesh can be used as a vegetable or soup or as a sweet in a pie and stores a long time in the freezer.

Runner beans
These also enjoy a rich well drained soil that holds moisture and prefer a more alkaline soil rather than one too acidic. Plant out about a foot apart in early June or sow seeds at that time. Grow them on a wigwam support, trellis, tall fence or the traditional double row of eight foot canes leaning inwards and crossing at six feet with horizontal canes tied in to secure the frame. They will soon find the canes and twine around them as they reach upwards.

Wee jobs to do this week

Give support to all tall growing herbaceous plants such as oriental poppies, peonies, delphiniums and pyrethrums as we seem to be in a period of strong winds.
Now that warmer weather has arrived weeds are starting to become a nuisance so keep the hoe going or pull them out and add them to the compost heap as long as they are just annual weeds.
Keep checking the tips of roses, blackcurrants and gooseberries and other plants with young succulent shoots as greenfly will very quickly multiply. At this stage they squash quite easily.
Gooseberries are also prone to attacks by the sawfly larvae, so be vigilant and continue to squash as necessary.


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