Recent sowing and planting

The blog has been rather slow lately, with nearly one month since my last post. Partly, at least, one must blame this lazy blogger. In my defence, we have been busy with various other things, and the garden has reached that maintenance phase where the mad rush of propagating and planting out slows down to a more modest workload. Most of the beds are now full, with crops for summer and autumn use as well as many to go through the winter or put into storage. It has also been hot lately, and the partly walled vegetable plot can become unbearably hot to work in the summer, not to mention the glasshouses and polytunnel, so we tend to reduce our activities at this time of year.

Over the last few weeks, though, we have made various sowings and planted out some young seedlings. First, we attended to the bean poles. In previous years, I have erected a couple of frameworks of bamboo canes running across the four feet wide bed. This year, for a change, I ran the framework along the length of the bed. Although we have never had a problem with wind damaging one of these structures, when covered with foliage they do present quite some wind resistance. I therefore added, as a precaution, a wire from the framework tethered to a stake to provide a brace on the windward side. We then sowed direct the old fashioned runner bean Painted Lady, French bean Blue Lake, Bortlotti bean Lingua di Fuoco, and a large white bean Bianco di Spagna. Both of the latter are intended for shelling, although the pods can be enjoyed whole when young. Bianco di Spagna is an interesting one, bearing quite some similarity to that known as a butterbean. Indeed, it is sometimes sold as a butterbean. From what I can ascertain, though, it is not, strictly speaking, a butterbean, but a sort of runner bean. True butterbeans are a sort of lima bean, which are not so well suited to our climate, so this large seeded runner bean makes an ideal substitute. We also sowed a patch of dwarf cannellini beans, again, primarily intended for shelling.

We have had some bad luck with our bean sowings. We were already somewhat tardy in getting these done, and then few seem to have appeared, although there is evidence of pest damage. Whether the pest was of the furry or the slimy variety is not clear, but this sowing has not been a success. I recently made a further sowing, in pots, for planting out in a week or two, to replace the lost plants. This is late for us, but June is by no means too late for sowing beans. A second round of bad luck occurred when CT was a bit over zealous in weeding the polytunnel and removed the dwarf French beans sown earlier in the year and soon to start bearing their crop.

We planted out our melons a couple of weeks ago, into the cold frames that run along the front of the glasshouses. These would be ideal for growing melons if I had finished building them, but they currently sit without the lights – the hinged glass lids – that should allow us to produce a rather more suitable environment. I have all of the materials needed, with glass and glazing bars left over from where we mounted the glasshouses directly to the rear wall, so hopefully will get around to this job before next season.

Young melon plants in one of the cold frames
Young melon plants in one of the cold frames

Previous sowings of brassicas, including the large pointed cabbage Filderkraut, red cabbage Red Drumhead, cauliflower All Year Round, and an early sowing of purple sprouting broccoli Rudolph, were planted out, to follow on from the summer cabbages currently hearting up, and a new batch of sowings was made for winter use. May and June are ideal for sowing kale, to which we also added savoy cabbage Ormskirk and a second sowing of purple sprouting broccoli Rudolph. Rudolph matures so quickly that the previous sowing should be ready before winter. Swede are also ideally sown in May and June. I usually prefer a May sowing but did not get round to it until mid June. Nonetheless, germination is rapid and the crop should be in good condition by the end of the year, when they will be needed in the kitchen. Although they can be sown direct and thinned as needed, I have had better results by sowing in modules and planting out when sturdy young plants have developed. Provided they do not suffer from clubroot and are netted against bird damage and to prevent the cabbage white butterflies from being able to lay their eggs, they are otherwise a robust crop that will stand well through the winter.

It is quite some weeks since I made an outdoor sowing of three rows of carrots, to follow on from the early sowing in the polytunnel. Germination appears to have been very poor indeed, although I would not rule out pest damage as the seed was quite fresh. In the end, I weeded the bed out and filled it with fresh sowings of various carrots, including the maincrop St Valery and the old French yellow carrot Jaune du Doubs. These appear to have germinated well, so hopefully our main crop is secured. Thinning will be necessary in a couple of weeks’ time, to allow the roots enough room to develop properly. We also added another row of beetroot Boltardy, our third sowing of beetroot. Our first sowing is still being harvested and our second is growing well.

Another task we attended to was the transplanting of our leek seedlings. Leeks are often sown in a seed bed or trays and then planted out when around the size of a pencil. I transplant into deep holes to ensure a good length of blanch on the stems, and have found that good results can be achieved by transplanting first from small seed trays to larger trays at more wide spacings to develop further before moving into the main bed to mature. This method has always produced leeks of good size and quality for us.

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