2 May 2011

Garden Notes: May

 Here is the next set of my Garden notes...it is strange seeing them in the light of the very different dry April we have just had....for the other sets click 'Label below and scroll down - also look out tomorrow for the opening of the Whiteshill and Ruscombe allotments.

May Notes

Plant up baskets and tubs with half-hardy flowers and vegetables but keep inside until the end of the month
Bean poles placed wider at the top than the bottom will increase ventilation and ease of picking as the beans hang down on the outside rather than the inside

Check tree ties are not cutting into growing stems and remove grease bands

Continue sowing outside and towards the end of the month plant out tender vegetables and flowers after the risk of frost is past - frost warnings are a useful guide to those willing to take protective measures. Harden-off plants by putting them out during the day and using cloches - brassicas can be planted to the base of the lowest leaf-stalks.

Thin out excessive growth of aquatic plants, continue to remove blanket and duckweed
Mulch fruit and vegetables with straw to smother weeds and retain moisture - particularly good for peas and beans

Remove side-shoots from tomatoes as they appear

Watch out for pests and diseases - pick off aphid infestations; hang pheromone codling moth traps in apple and pear trees until the end of august; remove scab-infected leaves from apples and pears; pick-out tops of flowering broad beans to reduce black fly attack (eat the tops in salads or cook like spinach); protect seed beds from birds

Remove unwanted suckers from raspberries (see left) and artichokes

Apply shading to greenhouse, ensure good ventilation and damp down as necessary - grow French marigolds and basil to reduce white fly and hang up yellow cards or buy predators
Continue to thin-out vegetables & flowers when just big enough to handle and continue hand-weeding regularly - weeds will stem growth of nearby vegetables and fruit

Stake tall herbaceous plants before they grow too big and tie in new growth of climbers - trim where necessary

 Grow squash in deep, rich soil (just got mine from the Whiteshill and Ruscombe Village Party on Friday) - they create a superb ground cover July to October and happily coexist with taller plants like sweetcorn

A look at cucumbers...

If you look closely in my garden later this summer, there will be signs of my deep moral slackness. Bent cucumbers. Yes, to a Victorian grower, a kink in your cue was a sign of loose morals. Indeed they were so concerned that glass tubes were fitted over newly set fruit to ensure they grew straight (see photo). Is this where the EU got their ideas?

Cues, straight or kinked, like warmth and are also partial to plenty of compost around their roots and plenty of water to drink. Avoid wetting young leaves as this causes fungus. I find training the vines up a tripod of canes makes harvesting easier and snipping out the growing tips encourages fruit production.

Harvest the cucumbers young, as they are superior in taste to older cues which may develop some bitterness. The bitterness seems to spread down from the flower end so don’t discard the fruit until you’ve tasted the other end. Indeed don’t discard at all as older cues can be great in a stirfry or curry. 

Or perhaps use them like the Spanish gypsies who put them on bruises. Or chill and slice for wearing over tired eyes as many a beauty magazine suggests. However perhaps avoid Eliza Actons advice, in her 19th century cookery book, in which she recommends boiling cucumbers at length.

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