Wednesday 2 June 2010

What's Happening in the Potager

Strawberries: We are getting a punnet of strawberries every couple of days. I've had to net them against birds. I suspect pigeons. Edouard reckons that strawberry plants last about 3 years in our soil, then they go yellow and poorly.

Beans: I lost my first batch of dwarf green beans to the late frosts in May. I've planted more and they are just starting to come up, but are being nipped of by something. I suspect pigeons.

The white grapes after being frosted on 14 May.
Mangetout: I sowed these in April and they came up quickly, performing better than the peas for a while. They haven't flowered yet, and seem to have stagnated.

Broadbeans: Every single one germinated and they have grown steadily and sturdily. They are currently flowering and attracting bumblebees, who will pollinate them nicely. I pulled one up today as it looked to me like it had a virus, and the last couple of days the black bean aphids have descended on the plants.

The kiwi fruit after the 14 May frost.
Peas: Germinated well and didn't mind the cold at all. They have been checked by the brief spell of hot dry weather we had though. They are flowering and have produced pods which I hope will fatten soon.

Lettuce: I have sown 4 types of lettuce. Those direct sown in April are doing very well and we are eating them. They are delicious. I transplanted seedlings sown in cells and started in the coldframe. They are coping very well, except that something is grazing on them. I suspect pigeons. I'll keep sowing lettuce periodically for a continuous supply.

Broad beans on 16 May, lettuce behind them,
then peas. To the left, strawberries.
Herbs: I direct sowed dill, which germinated poorly in April. I've just direct sowed coriander, parsley, chives and basil. There's no real need to sow parsley, as there are dozens of volunteers by the gate. They are currently going to seed, but they've still given me an all year supply. I also have coriander in cells in the coldframe, still too little to go out into the big wide world. I'll sow more of all of these in late June, after the longest day, to lessen the chances of them going to seed.

Onions: We planted a load of onions in late autumn. They are thriving. A couple of them bolted, so I pulled them and we ate them. They don't have a very obvious bulb yet, but they are like very thick leeks.

6.30 on 24 May, with the mist rising up
from the stream in front of the potager.
Garlic: The garlic is extremely robust and I imagine I can start pulling it now. I'd better read up on how to dry it so I can keep it for months.

Potatoes: I planted 3 different varieties - Amandine, a salad potato, Desirée and Rosevale, both pink skinned. All are up and have been earthed up and mulched. Here's hoping the Colorado Beetles and the blight doesn't notice them. I've got a few determined volunteers, who came from volunteers last year. There was no pest or disease problems last year, so I am hopeful they are not carrying anything.

After a rainless month, it poured on 26 May,
delivering 28mm.
Carrots: Like last year, poor germination. I think the ants carry the seed away. My neighbour Edouard, my potager guru, says I need to really tamp the soil down on carrot seed, so I have sown some more and done as he says. I also mixed the seed with chive seed, which I read gives some protection against carrot fly (the flies get confused because the chive smell overwhelms the carrot smell).

Beetroot: Poor germination. I think the lack of rain until recently is the cause. Edouard says beetroot doesn't do well in our soil.

Salsify: I sowed a few to try them. So far they seem to be sturdy little plants.

Jerusalem Artichoke: I dug them once they started shooting and moved them to a more convenient spot. They seem to be thriving.

Asparagus: I bought 10 crowns from a local grower. She assures me that if I don't earth them up the spears will be green. Edouard says that if they are not bearing sufficiently to harvest in their third year I might as well get rid of them, as they will never be any good. The asparagus grower I bought the crowns from (for 30c each) calls them pattes d'asperges (asparagus limbs). Edouard refers to them as griffes (claws). 8 of the 10 have sent up a fine little shoot each.

Pak Choy: Sowed in mid-spring, by late spring it was going to seed, so I pulled it all and we had several stir-fries. The flea beetles obviously found it delicious when it was young, but seemed to leave it alone after a while. Taste and texture in stir-fries was excellent. I've sowed some more, but apparently one should not sow it until after the longest day to try to prevent it going to seed.

Daikon: These were sown at the same time and have also gone to seed. I pulled one to see what it was like. It was about 20cm long and very strongly flavoured, but only about 1cm in diameter, so way too mini to bother with. I'm letting them go to seed and we'll see how this affects the root.

Chard: Poor germination, so I have sowed some more. Last year's is now going to seed and is rather bitter.

Tomatoes: I lost one batch of tomatoes in the late frost. I've got my backup tomato seedlings planted out now, plus two which came from seed I saved from last year. One of these already has a flower. I suspect it's a cherry tomato. Back in the coldframe I have more Roma and Beef Heart still too little to plant out. Tomatoes have been very slow this year and very checked by the cold weather. Some of the seedlings are still looking a bit yellow from the cold, and I am still having trouble with damping off in the coldframe. I assume it is the cold nights.

Endive: I have some endive under cloches and straw as an experiment.

Sweetcorn: Shooting strongly.

Cucumbers: I've planted Lebanese cucumbers and cornichon. The Lebanese cucumbers came up strongly, but got badly checked in the late cold, and then a few succumbed to damping off. But several have survived and look strong. The cornichons didn't bother to come up at all.

Raspberries, Tayberries, Loganberries, Japanese Wineberry: A few losses due to dry weather with the raspberries and I thought the wineberry was a goner, but it's come back. All the berry plants are quite small, but we might get a few berries from them.

Rhubarb: So far a disappointing waste of space. I need to get a good quality crown or division from someone local.

Red and Black Currants: A combination of late frost and dry weather did for all the fruit unfortunately.

Kiwi Fruit: Really frizzled by the late frost, and only just venturing new shoots. Obviously we won't get any fruit this year, and will need to protect it from the end of October until the end of May in future.

Grapes: The white grapes were caught in the late frost, so they've had to start all over again this year. Last year they were badly affected by the dry and we lost all the fruit. I gave the red grape a very hard pruning in January. It is determinedly shooting from the base as well as along mature stems. We will have to wait and see how they go.

Aubergines, peppers, cauliflower, red cabbage, broccoli, melon, zucchini, celery and leeks are all still up at the house in the coldframe, waiting until they've grown big enough to plant out (nearly there...) Edouard has pointed out to me that Colorado beetle thinks that aubergines are a great delicacy, but we didn't have any trouble last year, so here's hoping.



chm said...

A lot of work on your hands. All this sounds fabulous. Hope everything will grow as expected and will feed you until next year crop. Many preserves of all kinds in your future! LOL

Amanda said...

OMG, you planted a lot! I thought for kiwis, you had to plant a male and a female?

Anonymous said...

Wow, quite a lot of work you've
done! I've always found carrots
difficult, and they have to be
watered so gently so as not to
wash away those tiny seeds. Are
your conversations with Edouard
conducted all in French?

Anonymous said...

Wow, quite a lot of work you've
done! I've always found carrots
difficult, and they have to be
watered so gently so as not to
wash away those tiny seeds. Are
your conversations with Edouard
conducted all in French?

Simon said...

Ano: French and Pointing are the only languages Susan and Edouard have in common. With Edouard and me it's pointing seulement.

Nadege: we have one of the new self fertilising Kiwi Fruit bushes.

chm. If it's true, and you are what you eat, then I will probably be cherry jam.

Diogenes said...

Susan, you are quite the gardener. This is an impressive list! I'm afriad I've never had much luck with rhubarb either.

I never would have guessed you can grow kiwifruit there.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Funny, we didn't have a frost in May. Maybe it's our proximity to the river. And we certainly didn't get 28 mm of rainfall any time recently.

You are a very ambitious and obviously hard-working gardener.

I tried asparagus a few years ago, but it didn't do anything in our heavy clay soil so I ripped it out. I think the white and green varieties are the same plant — it's all in the cultivation (earthing it up or not). It likes sand, so grows well in the Sologne but not here on the Cher coteaux.

We've had great luck with aubergines/eggplant over the years, and never have noticed Colorado beetle here. The black aphids on cabbages and other plants can be terrible though.

Susan said...

Ken: We had frost 2 nights in a row, after les Saints de Glace, too, which isn't fair. We've actually had slightly more rain than that. The 28mm fell on a single day. I got the figure from Edouard.

Asparagus is complicated. Some varieties are specifically breed to be green or white, but earthing them or not will also influence the colour. You can also get varieties that are more tolerant of heavier soils. My crowns came from someone local, but you still can't guarantee they will do well. The soil throughout the Touraine can change from metre to metre.

Colorado beetle is here. I've seen the adult beetles, but we didn't have any problems with either the potatoes or the aubergines last year.

Diogenes: It may be that my soil is too alkaline for rhubarb (I think it is mildly alkaline). I also think it was a mistake to by a seedling rhubarb rather than a crown. Kiwi fruit grows very well here, but if it is not in a sheltered spot you have to protect it if you want fruit.

wcs said...

Are you having any problems with slugs and snails? They'll take down bean sprouts in a thrice (I've always wanted to say that).

Susan said...

Walt: Not much problem with our slimey friends. I can see they've cruised across the lettuce occasionally. According to Edouard, the damage I'm getting actually looks like baby rabbits, but there is no evidence of them getting through the fence or of droppings, so we've decided it must be pigeons (except for the strawberries, which he says is blackbirds).

BTW, isn't it a trice?

Post a Comment