• Goodbye Hungry Gap

    26th May 2009Timely AdviceStephanie Donaldson

    Two days of proper rain may have blighted the Bank Holiday, but the garden loves it. A friend rang me up this morning and said “ I swear I can see the plants growing!” That certainly seems to be the case in the greenhouse – suddenly the tomatoes are romping up their supports and I can see the first flower trusses forming. The four grow bags I can fit into the border of my 6×4 greenhouse allow me to grow 12 plants. Last year, despite the poor weather, we were picking tomatoes for months. I’m experimenting with something new this year – spiral plant supports. My usual method is to support the plants by winding them round string that is fastened to an overhead wire. The re-useable spiral plant supports, also known as Veggie Cages, have been used in America for a while and have just found there way over here. Apparently they are brilliant at supporting and containing the tomatoes. I will report the results.

    The hungry gap is behind us and we are starting to eat regularly from the garden and the allotment. We’ve enjoyed our first broad beans, have regular pickings of asparagus off the allotment, daily pickings of cut-and-come-again lettuce and for the past week, there have been sufficient strawberries for a generous helping on the morning muesli. And all the fresh herbs really give everything such a lift – I don’t know whether the past winter’s weather is the reason, but the mint is super size.

    Over the weekend I emptied the tulips out of their pots in the courtyard and replaced them with a mixture of herbs, French beans and dahlias. It is a real suntrap at this time of year and there is nothing our cat loves better than sunbathing on a newly planted pot – especially once it has been topped with Strulch (my favoured mulch – its brilliant). So, to protect the plants, I have created hazel-twig cages – attractive cat deterrents that also act as plant supports!

    Sown in the greenhouse: Zinnias and Morning Glories in peat-free coir pellets. Both their seedlings will sulk in the cold and hate root disturbance, so it is a good idea to delay sowing until now or even later for good results. In a couple of weeks they can be planted out into the garden.

    Sown in the coldframe: Carrots –the cold frame isn’t much used during the summer months so I’ve sown carrot seed and covered the frame with Enviromesh. This will keep the pesky root fly at bay. With our deep sandy soil we should be able to grow brilliant carrots, but we’ve yet to succeed here, or on the allotment. Fingers crossed.

    Sown outside: Spinach – in partial shade in an old galvanised water tank next to the greenhouse. Spinach tends to run to seed if growing in full sun during the summer and raising it up should keep it free of slugs and snails.

    On the allotment: A mixture of squash plants