The Kitchen Garden in Early Summer

Early Summer

By this time your crops will be well into their stride, growing rapidly, flowering and setting fruit. From now on, most of the work consists of routine care, protecting the plants from pest and disease, and at the same time minimising the effects of unsuitable weather. You can still start off some crops, mainly those which are to be stored through the winter, or those which are deliberately being sown late to avoid pest attack, but you may in any case be short of space unless a crop has failed or bolted.

The experienced gardener makes use of all the space available and makes sure that it has some crop or other in it for as much of the year as possible. As soon as one crop is finished, in summer, the ground should be cleared, dug and fertilized and another batch of seed sown or plants put in. This is where the quick-maturing crops are so useful: beetroot, radish, lettuce, carrot, French (kidney) bean, spinach and pea.

Watering will begin to be of considerable importance; the soft fruit season lasts mainly from early to late summer, but at the same time as the plants are fruiting, they are also producing new shoots on which next year’s crop will be carried. This puts a great strain on them and if ample supplies of water are not available to the roots, the new growth will be poor or non-existent; if the water shortage continues, the crop will also be miserable.

Vegetables, too, are vulnerable when potential droughts loom; biennial kinds which are cropped in their first season telescope their growth during drought and run to seed (bolt) then, instead of in the second summer. Root crops split or stop growing, only to crack when moisture is supplied eventually; the fruiting vegetables drop their fruits while still embryos or their flowers fall without setting. Do nor let a dry spell go on for too long without watering; a week of hot dry weather, even if the soil is moist at the beginning, is quite long enough, and you should then water heavily at intervals of a few days, until the drought is over. Pests and diseases will still be with you, so will the weeds.

Jobs to do

Preparing the soil

There is little to do beyond getting the soil into condition for sowing seeds, mostly in rows where the plants are to mature, rather than in seed beds or containers for transplanting.

Sowing seed outdoors

Most of the sowing has been done by now, but there is still time to get a crop of some quick-growing vegetables and there are others which will grow steadily until the autumn and need the long growing period.

Seeds to sow are: French (kidney) bean, runner (pole) bean, beetroot, borage, carrot, chicory (Sugarloaf), dill, endive (curled), kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsley, pea, radish, swede and turnip. Beetroot, carrot and swede should be sown and grown for winter storage. Sown in a position where they are not exposed to sun all day, they will be less likely to bolt. Peas to sow at this time should be the first-early dwarf varieties, which take only 11-12 weeks to mature and will fit under cloches in autumn.

Thinning

There will be a variety of late-spring-sown crops to thin in early summer, if not already done, including: basil, beetroot, Brussels sprout, broccoli (heading), cabbage, calabrese, carrot, chicory, dill, endive, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, marjoram, parsley, radish, savory, summer spinach, swede, tomato and turnip. Thinning is easier when the soil is on the dry side, but if it is, water the remaining plants to make sure their roots are firmly in contact with the soil.

Planting

This will be one of the main jobs to do in early summer as the winter brassicas, celery, leeks, sweetcorn, tomatoes and the cucurbits will all be ready to go out. The soil for all these will already have been prepared and will only need loosening on the surface and clearing of possible annual weeds.

The brassicas – sprouting and heading broccoli (winter cauliflower), cabbages including Savoys, Brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi – can all be transplanted to their permanent positions as soon as they have developed four or five leaves. Do not choose plants which have gone ‘blind’ – that is, lost their growing point, or those with leaves which have a bluish tinge, as it means their roots may be damaged in some way. Make a planting hole with a wooden dibber, or trowel, water it, put in the plant up to the first leaf and firm the soil round the roots. Plants should be watered before transplanting and should have a ball of soil round the roots when lifted. Water the plants well as they grow.

Self-blanching celery is generally grown in a square block, planted on the flat, without digging trenches first. Lift the young plants with their roots as intact as possible, and plant so that the roots are covered, but not the stems, otherwise they will tend to sucker. Water in and erect a sacking or black plastic sheet barrier round the block to keep the outside plants blanched; the inside ones will be shaded by one another.

Winter celery is planted in trenches; dig out the prepared site to 15-25cm (6-10in) deep and 38-45cm (15-18in) wide. Put the young plants, 23cm (9in) apart, in a row along the centre. Lift them from their containers with as little disturbance to the roots as possible, set firmly in the soil and water in. Celery needs plenty of water, so it is wise to water the site beforehand if at all dry. You can also plant in a double staggered row, using the wider trench spacing, and leave 30cm (12in) between plants, to make later work easier. The dug-out soil at the sides of the trenches can be used for quick-growing, catch crops before earthing up is needed in late summer.

Leeks can be grown on the flat and blanched as they grow, but it is easier to make holes with a dibber, drop one leek plant into each hole and then fill the hole up with water to settle the soil round the roots. Trim the roots back a little, and cut the tips off the leaves before planting so that they do not trail on the ground and rot. Leeks should be transplanted when about 15-20cm (6-8in) high.

Sweetcorn is another crop which is planted in a block; put in the plant complete with peat pot, firm well in and water thoroughly. Sweetcorn should be 10-15cm (4-6in) tall when transplanted; if the nights are still chilly, below I3°C (55°F), cover with cloches, but remove during the day.

Tomatoes will do best if they can be planted close to a south-facing wall with shelter from cold winds. Plants should be about 15-20cm (6-8in) tall at planting time, with the first flower truss just showing. Move them with a good ball of soil round the roots, put in a supporting stake (for cordon tomatoes) about 120cm (48in) high at the same time and water in after firming the soil round them.

The cucurbits are planted in the same way as melons.

The Mediterranean type of herbs can still be planted out: bay, marjoram, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. Although they are plants from hot, dry habitats, water them in and water occasionally thereafter, otherwise they will not take when transplanted.

Earthing up

Maincrop and second early potatoes will need earthing up once or twice more during early summer, but stop once the tops have grown sufficiently to touch those of the rows on each side

Compost heap

Your heap will be growing fast and should be turned once or twice, sides to middles, or sides can go on top. Keep it within manageable proportions, and start another as soon as it is about 150cm (60in) high.

Feeding

Feeding begins to become more important from now on; the last dressing of agricultural salt can be given to asparagus, at 60g per sq m (2oz per sq yd). Globe artichokes can be given a general liquid feed at ten-day intervals from now until autumn, and aubergine, lettuce, peppers, peas and tomatoes can also be liquid fed: give all but lettuce a potash-high liquid fertilizer. Lettuce will do better with one which has a high nitrogen content. Garlic can have a single dressing of compound, potash-high fertilizer, well watered in, to bring the bulbs up to a really good size. It should by now be about 45-60cm (18-24in) tall; remove the flower if one appears. Liquid feeding of strawberries can continue and all greenhouse plants need regular liquid feeding.

More Summer Kitchen Garden Tasks …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , , | Comments Off on The Kitchen Garden in Early Summer

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