The advantage of late sown veg

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Published 30/06/2015 | 00:00

Plant of the Week: Laurentia axillaris 'Blue Stars'
Plant of the Week: Laurentia axillaris 'Blue Stars'

Clip box hedges

Laurentia axillaris 'Blue Stars' - a dainty annual

I had a reconnoiter of my vegetable garden during the week and have observed conflicting success rates. I've come to the conclusion that it has been a funny old year.

Firstly the rhubarb that started off so magnificantly in April seems to have given up for the year or worryingly maybe for good. Over enthusiastic harvesting? I don't think so more like low soil temperatures and dry April's knock on effect. I've heard of other who have had the same problem. I'll liquid feed a few times over the rest of the summer and otherwise leave well alone.

Elsewhere however things seem much better particularly in the soft fruit department. Gooseberries, currants, raspberries and strawberries all look to be set for a very good year at this stage. This is more do to last years weather than this years. You can thin out half of this years new growth from currants and gooseberries now to encourage all the plants energies to go to the forming fruits and allow more sunlight in to ripen them. This is known as the summer prune.

Make sure your raspberries are supported to stop them blowing over, bamboo canes and wire will do this. Strawberries as the name suggests need to be strawed up now, this involves gently placing fluffed up straw under the leaves and forming fruit. This will help ripen fruit, keep them clean and discourage slugs.

I have lifted some first early potatoes, Sharpe's Express. I lifted with trepidation as the tops where rather ragged and miserable looking. Although only 90 days since planting, 110 is recommended, I was pleasantly surprised by the crop. The soil was worringly and strangley dry however as I thought that May had been particularly wet. Something to keep an eye on for the rest of the summer in both the veg and ornamental gardens.

Cold soil temperatures also led to the down fall of my first sowing of carrots, beetroot, peas and beans. So poor was my germination rate from an early May sowing that I dug over and started again in mid June. These new sowing have literally leapt from the ground. It got me thinking that maybe be my bad luck and slovenly attitude to resowing may pay dividends in the long run.

Crops like runner and french beans and courgettes are susceptible to some of our early summers adverse weather conditions where as Septembers are often now more like I remember Augusts to be. Crops planted early can often be set back, become stunted or perhaps never really recover to crop well as a result of poor weather.

This all means in my crazy logic, that what looked like being a failure will ultimately be a success. My late sown crops haven't had to endure the late May early June battering and because they where sown late will be in hearty health and fresh to crop well into the balmy Indian summer I am counting on for September. Watch this space.

You can gather from this article that I don't grow in a polytunnel. In the microclimate one creates none of these weather problems exist. Watering, fungual and bacterial diseases not to mention black, green, white fly and red spider mite do. I don't have a great love of the poytunnel either visually and from a working point of view. They do however give the avid grower the opportunity to gain control over the elements and the quality of their results. But hey, where's the fun in that.

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