Hello, anyone still here?!? I actually know there are people here (based on the statistics), but I’m mostly asking because I’ve been away for so long – again – and it feels like I’m coming back into an empty room. A lot of off-blog time was spent in the garden as you might have guessed, since it’s May.
Somehow, even though it’s high-time in the garden, I seem to have posted a monthly post every May since I started gardening. I’m wondering why and I’m guessing it’s because May has always been that time of year where the garden starts its magical transformation from bare brown earth to a lush and green vegetable jungle. Yeah, that’s probably the excitement that I want to share with you every May. In case you want to look back to my earlier May gardens, this is 2014, 2015 and 2016.
If you are mostly interested in 2017, below you can find an update in mostly pictures. But before you scroll down, I want to mention a few things. First of all, this year has been a blessing weather wise for the garden. The temperature has gone up steadily, without many (long) cold shocks. This alone makes it much easier to grow a garden. But not only has the temperature gone up steadily since January, we also had very dry weather, which is a very good condition to prevent a slug invasion. Now, dryness isn’t something to brag about and we were very happy when we received some very heavy showers about two weeks ago for a week. But as we are blessed with an onsite water reservoir which is filled by a natural spring, we don’t have to worry a lot about watering our gardens. So dry weather, this time of year is something that I hope for.
Next to the weather, we were working on the labour we had done last year on the garden, which meant we had less weeds than when we started a year ago and the soil had also improved significantly with the addition of all the organic matter we placed on the garden last year. Eager to improve the soil even more, we were lucky to find a free source of wood chips (the dump) and compost (our local council) for this year. And therefore we were able to dump somewhere between 2000 and 2500L of organic matter on the garden this year. Hard work, but I’m pretty sure we will look back on this work with gratitude later on this season. Right now, we are both appalled by the idea of dragging up more organic matter to the allotment. We are done with that!
One last remark before I take you along with me on a garden tour. Off site, I have also been working on a tight sowing schedule this year, which meant that I could plant pretty big plants into the garden as soon as it was possible. This makes the garden look very green and lively at this time of year. I was able to do that (in spite of the hard work of bringing compost up to the allotment) because I had prepared my seeds beforehand. I also didn’t buy many new seeds this year, which meant I didn’t have to wait for long deliveries. Also I had access to better equipment this year for growing my seedlings. I used a growing mat, plastic boxes, soil block makers and tons of yoghurt pots to prepare myself for the real season.
Now, let’s move on to the fun part, the images:
Soft leafy greens as slug traps
This was the first part of the garden that I had ready for planting. Most of my soft leafy greens are planting here. Some have even gone to seed, which makes them less preferable for consumption, but I leave them in the garden still to feed the rare slugs that we have. They are now mostly munching on my Chinese cabbage and Bok Choy and are leaving all my kale and other members of the brassica family alone, which works for me! I will remember to interplant my kale, cabbage and kohlrabi plants with extra Chinese cabbage and Bok Choy’s upcoming years.
Other things that can be found here, are broad beans, spinach, herbs and part of the leeks and onions. My asparagus also live in this part of the garden. They haven’t produced marvellously, but that was to be expected since we have only planted it last year. Looking at the spears that we left to bloom this year, I’m pretty sure next year will be a great year for this crop. Let’s move up on the garden.
Tomato forest accompanied by the brassica family
Walking up on the site, the 78 tomato plants are stealing the show. I have planted the last ones today. I’m happy to see that the site is big enough to absorb such a big quantity and leave room for other crops. I like to plant tomatoes close to each other and in the proximity of the brassica family plants. They seem to grow well together for me. I’m planting tomatoes towards the sun and the cabbages behind it. The opinions are divided on how well these two families grow together, so you will have to try out yourself how it works for you.
No crop rotation in my garden
You might have noticed that I don’t use a rotation schedule in my garden. So in general I plant where I think one specific plant will do best. The only exception for this rule are the potatoes. I do move those around. First of all because they are great for opening up the soil and secondly because they can get some pretty nasty problems when they grow on the same spot year after year. But everything else grows pretty much all over the place, all mixed up. It’s a bit of a polyculture, which I believe helps me prevent getting diseases. Crop rotation is for those who practice mono-culture on a grand scale. I can’t say that that description fits my garden.
Fruit growing under arches
Other plants that stay on the same place, always, are the fruit trees/plants/shrubs. You can see them here on one of the sides of the garden. They are all tucked together. Compared to last year this part of the garden exploded. The strawberries doubled in size, but all the other berries growing one topiary higher also grew much higher. The strawberries are giving us an amazing crop already, we have to wait for all the other harvests till later this year.
Upper level garden: onions, garlic and pumpkins
This is the upper level of the garden. I have one bed filled with onions. They are also doing amazingly this year. I grew them from onion sets this year as my seeds were too old to germinate. In between the rows of onions I have sowed different root crops. Some are coming up slowly now.
On this upper level you can also find the garlic bed. I will harvest the main crop in 4 or 6 weeks. In between I’m harvesting young garlic plants and we are eating those fresh. I’m really pleased with how these look. I’m less pleased with the state of the watering hoses, but I’m sure we’ll fix this the upcoming week.
On the last image below, the first pumpkins are showing. I’ve planted out 3 pumpkin plants out on the back side of our plot (more will come) and 2 courgettes on the beds in between. I waited until they were big enough not to be eaten by the occasional slugs. Last year they were decimated by them, but I think this year this won’t be a problem. I forgot to say earlier, last year the slugs even ate all my onions! Crazy year it was.
Anyhow, my idea is to grow the pumpkins on these homemade trellis upwards against the back side of the garden. The trellis is not ready by the way. I will need to add more levels and secure it better. But this gives you an idea.
It’s all looking good I think. Don’t you think? How is your garden going?