It’s a busy month on the fruit and vegetable plot; and it often feels like spinning plates with all the tasks to think of including watering, feeding, weeding, sowing and harvesting. Then there’s the cooking afterwards….
But that’s the fun of growing your fruits and vegetables and it’s really rewarding to get the crops you’ve raised into your kitchen recipes. This month we’re visiting BBC Gardeners’ World Live to get some top tips from the experts, and keeping our eye out for some new varieties. Watch this space…..
Top jobs for June
Cordon tomatoes are those ones that grow tall, and produce sideshoots of flowers that eventually become the trusses of tomato fruits. This way of growing tomatoes keeps them well aerated around the stems and easy for them to be harvested without the danger of breaking or snapping neighbouring stems.
So that they produce an optimum number of flowering stems, get into the habit of pinching out the leafy stems that grow in the angles between the main stem and the flowering stems. This puts the tomato plants’ energy into producing flowering stems over leafy stems. You’ll get used to which stems these are, and they’re easy to remove first thing in the morning when the young growth is flexible and full of water. Use snippers or remove stems with fingers. It’s a great job too if you love the smell of tomato plants.
Squash is in the same family of cucumbers and so have similar traits, such as producing long stems with large leaves and succulent fruit.
The great thing about squash though is that they are so versatile, for recipes and in the varieties you can grow. They come in all shapes and sizes but there are growing techniques that relate to them all.
When planting out squash, give them enough space to grow as, like courgettes, they like to spread and put up a leafy canopy.
Before planting, dig in lots of bulky compost or manure into the soil to increase the nutrient levels in the soil.
By June, the danger of late frosts should have passed – but be mindful of the forecast and be ready to protect with horticultural fleece should a frost be forecasted.
While flowers are growing water copiously mornings and evenings and provide a warming mulch to lock moisture in the soil.
When the squashes have fruiting and they are expanding in size, feed regularly with a high-potassium feed.
After these fruit trees have put on their lovely displays of blossom and bees and other insects have pollinated the flowers, you should notice fruitlets forming in clusters of the stems.
This is the stage that you want to thin out some of these fruitlets so that you encourage fewer fruits to grow but of higher quality and size, than masses of inferior fruit.
Thin out clusters to about half – so you should thin out a cluster of four fruits to one of two. This means that the remaining fruit will get more light and more air – increasing their ability to expand in size.
When thinning out, bear in mind which fruits are more likely to see more sun, due to the cluster’s position on the plant, and keep those ones for a harvest of sweeter, bigger peaches and nectarines.
It’s a busy time on the veg plot with all kinds of jobs to do. However it pays to think ahead, so get your allotment or veg plot prepared now for an optimum harvest in the autumn and winter months.
Here’s a list of crops that you can sow now, so you can rest assured that you’ll have a bounty of vegetables for later in the year.
Prepare the ground well before sowing seeds in drills. Add lots of bulky compost and manure to the soil before planting to increase the nutrient levels including nitrogen and improve the soil texture.
These vegetables appreciate a light, sandy soil so that their roots can grow unimpeded. Add grit or sand to heavy clay soil before sowing seeds in drills.
Whether you’re growing raspberries, currants or strawberries, birds savour the crop as much as you do. One way of avoiding damage (or indeed disappearance) of fruit is by applying a protective netting, so you’re safe in the knowledge it’s just you who’ll be harvesting the fruit. This too is an organic means of guarding against pests for an environmentally sound means of growing fruit.
Netting is easy to apply and erect and easy to dismantle again when shrubs and plants are dormant in the winter.
If you are growing and harvesting broad beans now you might have noticed an infestation of blackfly. These colonise around the growing tips, so an easy and organic way to eliminate the problem is simply pinching out the growing tips.
To protect brassicas against cabbage white butterfly and other pests, put up an insect net which acts as the ultimate insect barrier. Simply put up and ensure there’s no contact between the net and the crops.
Plant of the month – Sweetcorn
Grow your very own sweetcorn and you’ll get to taste superior sweet and juicy kernels, whether cooked or eaten fresh from the plant. Just be sure to grow a square of corn in a sunny, sheltered position and enjoy the harvests in late summer.
Designate a square or rectangular patch of your veg plot to corn and mark a grid of 45cm squares. Sow two seeds per station in fertile soil in June. Seeds germinate in one two weeks. As the seedlings grow, remove the weaker seedling at each station.
Be sure that the soil stays moist and as the crops grow. You may need to stake the plants if you’ve grown them in an exposed position. Once the top grain-like male flowers have developed, which look like tassels give them a tap to encourage them to land on and fertilise the female flowers below – that will form the eventual sweetcorns. The wind naturally does this job, but a helping hand won’t hurt.
Keep an eye on your sweetcorn for pests and diseases. Mammals love sweetcorn, especially badgers, so surround your crop with a protective fence.
It’s time to harvest in August to September. You can tell the cobs are ready when the hairs at the top are chocolate-brown.
Do a texture test on the corn by squeezing one of the kernels. They’re unripe if they exude a watery liquid, overripe if the liquid is doughy in texture, and perfect if the liquid is creamy.
Either eat fresh from the plant – truly satisfying or, if boiling, do so in as short a time as possible from picking. The sweetness of sweetcorn quickly diminishes once it’s off the plant.
Sweetcorn ‘Mirai Picnic’ - produces small appealing cobs with up to 16 rows of grains with an excellent sweet and juicy flavour.
Sweetcorn ‘Honeydew’ - A very high quality second generation Extra Tender sweetcorn type with large cobs, a superb flavour.
Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ - Bred especially to produce mini corn – great for stir-fries and children’s pack lunches
Sweetcorn ‘Summer Jewel’ - A clean tidy habit. Ideal to eat fresh or to grill on the barbecue.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show Product of the Year 2015
Congratulations go to Agralan Ltd for winning the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Product of the Year 2015 with its innovative potato planter. You can now monitor the development of your potatoes as they grow without digging up the plant. Coming soon to Marshalls it’s perfect for checking your crops without disturbing the growing plants.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2015
Congratulations go to Burncoose Nurseries who entered Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum Kilamanjaro Sunrise (‘Jww5’) into the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2015. The shrub, with beautiful lace-cap flowers in spring, was selected from a short list of 20 plants which included enchanting rose Susie.
BBC Gardeners’ World Live
Visit BBC Gardeners’ World Live at Birmingham from 11-14 June where you get the opportunity to see the best in fruit and vegetable growing, as well as food experts like Monty Don and Mary Berry. There’s a wealth of floral exhibits too from nurseries around the UK, evocative Show Gardens and lots of inspiring things to see and do for the kitchen garden, all in one place at this central England show.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show Preview Evening 29 June
Be one of the first to see the abundant flowers and impressive show gardens of this mid-summer show, set by the beautiful Hampton Court Palace in Surrey. See the beautiful annual fireworks display and enjoy the fantastic entertainment, food and drink on this charming summer evening.
Sow and Grow salads now
It’s the perfect time of year to sow zesty and well-flavoured salad leaves. Just grow in the ground or in containers and you can be harvesting fresh, flavoursome and nutritious salad greens in as little as 6 weeks. Sow seeds at two-week intervals for a season-long supply.
The Big Day Out at Humble by Nature 4 July
Join Kate Humble on Saturday 4 July 2015 for The Big Day Out on her beautiful working farm in the heart of Monmouthshire's Wye Valley. Marshalls Seeds will be exhibiting and giving expert advice on quick-growing crops like strawberry ‘Vibrant’ and growing crops in small spaces.