Summer crops planted 2-3 weeks ago in my polytunnel are growing quickly, enjoying the warm weather. You can read about how we mulched and planted the polytunnel here in my blog, No Dig Home. The polytunnel planting is designed to crop on different levels, rather like a forest garden using mostly annual plants, to make full use of the growing space.
The centre of the poltunnel has the greatest height so it is here that I have planted most of the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons – as you can see, they grow up string fastened to the crop bars. Basil and edible flowers are planted between them; at the front I’ve planted lemongrass (and some night scented stock, which isn’t edible but smells gorgeous and feeds moths). The copper pipes are to guide the hose and protect the plants from damage – I have accidentally uprooted or decapitated several plants whilst watering in the past, so this is a good solution. Whilst the plants have been small, I have used a sprinkler to water the tunnel – great for really getting the soil moist and saves time too, as I can get on with other tasks – but now there is the first blight warning (as the weather has turned warm and damp) I will water the soil using the hose to avoid wetting the tomato leaves. I prefer to handwater rather than use an irrigation system because it provides an ideal opportunity to check how the plants are doing, remove sideshoots etc, notice any problems (hopefully!) before they become too troublesome, spot ripening fruits, enjoy the beautiful growth of the plants and nibble on ripe fruit when it comes.
Key jobs in the polytunnel now include weeding, removing side shoots (tomatoes, cucumbers) and twisting new growth around the strings (tomatoes, melons, cucumbers.)
The polytunnel gives me the opportunity to try out many plants which are not entirely suited to the British climate. Down the left hand side, I have planted more tomatoes which are growing up bamboo canes. They will have their growing shoot removed when they have reached the top of their support. Here too are aubergines, sweet peppers, some early dwarf french beans, elephant garlic and some more unusual plants including blue butterfly peas, okra, Padron chillies (they are milder, you can grill and stuff them) and Tortarello, something new I am trying from Italy. They look and taste like a cucumber but are botanically a melon. I am growing some undercover and others outside. At the back is a grapevine, underplanted with cape gooseberries, growing with great enthusiasm: last year it didn’t produce a single edible grape so this year is its final chance…
On the right side, plants include cucumbers, aubergines, chillies, sweet peppers, tomatillos, the Tamarillo tree tomato that I overwintered in my house, a goji berry and a Cinnamon Vine. This is an escapee! I grew one in a pot here last year, it died back over the winter and started to emerge again a couple of weeks ago. I moved the pot to discover another shoot underneath, in the ground. This is rapidly growing up against the doorframe. I have planted Tagetes Minuta in a bindweed prone corner to see whether it lives up to its reputation as a bindweed suppressor – more are going out in a bindweedy part of the front garden.
In order to make most use of the space, other plants including stevia, more chillies and blueberries ( to protect the fruit from wild birds) grow in pots. More aubergines and chillies are planted in the greenhouse.
This Grenoble Red lettuce has been left to bolt – I want to save the seed.
Most of my plants are of course grown outside. For the past few days, the garden and allotment benefitted from much needed rain – I can almost see the plants grow!
The potatoes are looking good – these are (left to right) Charlotte, Apache, Pink Fir Apple and Highland Red.
At the allotment all of the overwintered brassicas are now cleared. We are enjoying the first broadbeans, so sweet and delicious. The garlic has rust, which doesn’t look nice but should not affect the garlic flavour or storage. The beds are filling up with so many plants including beans, courgettes, squash. Some brassicas for autumn and winter will be planted here over the next couple of weeks.
The gooseberries are almost ready. This morning I ate my first fresh redcurrants. I love to snack on them fresh from the bush – however so do the wild birds so I will protect them with netting.
Today I have also picked garlic scapes, dwarf French beans and some basil from the tunnel. Later on I’ll harvest from the allotment and garden spinach, broadbeans, rhubarb and green coriander seeds – I love these sprinkled on salads and hummus, they have a zingy citrus flavour.
I am loving the richness of colour in the garden and the abundance of wildlife. A cotoneaster, which grows up the front wall of my house, isn’t a very attractive shrub but it has huge benefits for wildlife – bees feed on the flowers during the summer, birds feed on the berries all autumn and winter and also find insects to eat on the branches; spiders make their webs here too.