Garden update (poppies, a rose, scoffing Kailaan)

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Garden update (poppies, a rose, scoffing Kailaan)

My first rose in the garden (with a citrusy scent).

My first rose in the garden (with a citrusy scent).

Foul weather today – yes, get yourself a happy pakamac – but I got out in the weather and got on with a few things. Apart from the slug damage, there are a few things to see including my first rose this year and my first poppies. As far as edibles are concerned, I’m still cutting spinach (real spinach) that I overwintered as seedlings and that shot away this spring. I cut about once a week and it just springs back in a way that the rhubarb chard, that I put in with it, just doesn’t. So apart from spinach’s propensity to bolt, and it is trying to do so, I am very happy with it. It is of course infested with slugs, which in all the wet weather we are having, are having a field day. But I am getting a yield.

The elephant garlic in the allotment are doing very well and I have high hopes for the harvest. The elephant garlic in my back garden however are much smaller. I have a feeling they won’t split into cloves this year. A change of plan may be in order but I am running out of space on both the allotment and here at home. The site at home got plenty of sun during the spring (and some sun in late winter, they were planted in February) but a – now leafed up – sweet cherry is interfering in the hours of daylight available to them. I should take comfort in the forest garden principle of “stacking” – the yield of the elephant garlic may be smaller but combined with the yield in cherries should make a yield greater than elephant garlic on the same space grown in full sun. Unless I’m deluding myself.

Though I am committed to sustainable forms of growing veg I still get the urge to have perfect, massive, veggies like the more conventional allotmenteers. Though I am plainly getting rewards from my plots I am often getting them from bolting chards, overwintered from last year, that have very big stalks and that are very tasty boiled with salt (Oh, I’m too British!). They have also plainly bolted, which to a normal conventional veggie grower is untenable. It doesn’t look right, veggies should be neat, low, and unbolted. I am using them for cut-and-come-again and each time they come back just as strong.

I’ve had some success with kailaan – which is a Chinese broccoli and allegedly a perennial. I picked a shoot and cooked and ate it. It was OK, a little bit bitter, but was tender and a little bit like asparagus. I am also taking cuttings to propagate. A lot of people (including myself) find that the plant when sown bolts quickly and doesn’t produce the thick stems that are shown on the front of the seed packet. I sowed some, I think, in late July or August last year and overwintered them carefully (in pots under cloches next to a wall). I think it is the overwintering that has allowed them to grow the thick stalk. It is its perennial nature that makes me want to grow it, cos I can’t stand sowing seed.

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