The great vegetable revival
Whether it’s the thought of an extended COVID-19 lockdown or a desire to eat really fresh food, home-grown veg is seeing a huge revival. Unfortunately, garden centres are now closed and even some online sources are struggling to keep up with demand.
At the time of writing, it was still possible to get compost from some supermarkets, which you could pick up with your essential shopping. Seeds and plants were available from online suppliers although this picture may change, so hunt around online and ask your gardening neighbours for any spare seeds they are not planning to sow.
I keep my seed from year to year because, quite honestly, the sell by date on the packet is a marketing tool to sell more seed, although germination rates can be lower. That means I sow more seeds than I need and give the excess away.Phew! No more chasing around trying to keep up with staking, deadheading and watering. The frosts that look stunning on the hedges have put an end to the last few dahlias and penstemon flowers and the garden is shutting down. But, it is not time to pack away your tools and abandon it – lured by the cosy warmth of a cuppa on the sofa in front of a favourite film. No, there is still a lot to do. Tricky pruning jobs, planning for next year and looking for inspiration are all things to be thinking of in December and January.
Direct plant now
In May, there are still seeds you can sow. Direct plant carrots, spring onions, spinach, beetroot, lettuce, and radish where they are to grow – even between the flowers in your borders! Plant a few seeds at a time to give you a longer cropping period. You can still get main crop seed spuds in – something like Desiree or King Edward – where chitting is not vital. Plant the end with most eyes upwards, 10cm deep, 35cm apart and make a ridge of earth over the row. Pile loose soil up around the stem as it grows so that you don’t get green spuds! Note that potatoes and tomatoes don’t make the best bedfellows as the latter may succumb to blight – which will ruin the crop.
You can still direct sow french and runner beans if you haven’t already started them off undercover. You will need to support the runners as they grow and possibly the french beans – if you don’t have canes, use a spare bit of trellis or even some wires on a fence.
Plant courgette seed on its edge in a pot and raise undercover. You will only need 1 or 2 plants as they are space hungry and prolific! When all chance of frost is past, plant the now flourishing courgette in a slight dip so that you can easily keep water at the roots. Sweet corn can be planted in individual pots now or direct when frosts have passed. Plant out in blocks not rows and, when fully developed, tap the tassels as they need help to pollinate. Harvest when silks at the end of the cob turn brown.
Feed and water
The main thing with veg is feeding and watering – they generally need a good amount of both. Incorporating well rotted organic matter into the soil before planting and using commercial fertiliser to support root development and leaf growth is important. It’s also a good idea to tap into your gutters and set up some water butts to help keep on top of the watering – especially if we have hosepipe bans this summer.
Rose Gill, Room Outside garden design.