Garden time! It’s time to give you an update of my polyculture vegetable garden in June. It’s the best time of the year when you are cultivating a garden (at this side of the world). Not much to do on the planting and sowing side of the garden. But lots of things to do on the harvesting side of the garden. Rewards, rewards, rewards. Sure, you still need to sow occasionally. When a bed falls empty for example. But the glut of the work has been dealt with, which takes a big weight off the gardeners shoulders.
There are still other things to do though, lots of weeding, and a big job of this month will be mulching. Which will involve bringing up probably about 10 bales of straw to the garden. I was doubting this year if I would mulch as I had the option of adding more community compost to the garden. But after some horrendous rain that we had this week and seeing how dry it left the soil only two days later, I’ve decided to go ahead and mulch this year as well.
Let me show you a few overview pictures from the garden so that you can orient yourself in it. The garden is basically divided in two big layers. The bottom part (the first two pictures) and the top part (the next three pictures). The bottom part is placed on a slope which has five long beds on it. Then there is a huge transition bed, which is partly on a slope and partly on a more flat surface and then you come to the top part of the garden, where there are four shorter beds running in opposite direction to the beds on the part below. The whole garden is then also surrounded by one bed on every side. The one on the back is the biggest one and houses mostly pumpkins (next year it will also house strawberries on one of the sides). The two beds on the sides of the garden house mostly fruit (but also corn, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and some other things). The bed on the front side of the garden has some herbs and a bit of flowers and some leftovers from other years. So that’s globally the garden.
I will go into more detail here on all the crops that are growing and that we are harvesting. In general, I have the feeling that I’m not harvesting enough for the time of the year. I know I always think I don’t have enough to harvest, remember my winter garden post? But I really think I can do better this time of year. I don’t think my harvests are lagging behind due to the weather or anything external, but mostly because I forgot to sow some crops early enough in the year, or in big enough quantities. I will keep that in mind for next years sowings.
Especially when I sow beetroot and kohlrabi, I will have to start sowing earlier. And I’m thinking of peas as well, I sowed those early enough, but not in big enough quantities. So that’s something I should learn for next year. And perhaps I should start watering more intensively earlier in the year. I rarely water before June. Hoping that nature will solve it by itself, but maybe my expectations are too high on that point, especially because I sow/plant crops very close to each other.
Next up are the courgettes/zucchini. I have about 4 different type of courgettes growing in our garden. Most of them are doing nothing yet. As in, they are not producing female flowers. But this yellow one (which happens to be my all-time favourite) is giving us fruits already. So hooray for yellow courgettes!
Our soft fruit bushes are in full swing now. They are giving us a daily crop for a month now. The strawberries even longer. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but always something. We have also already jarred 4 jams. Many more to come. As we prepare more preserves, I hope I will be able to share some of our recipes.
Tomatoes! The reason why I keep a vegetable garden. They are doing really good. Well, let me put it more precisely: the plants are humongous and about 80% of the tomato plants have beautiful tomatoes. BUT as you can see on the picture below, the leaves are not blemish free. Which always stresses me out. As a result I tear off lots of leaves, more than necessary probably.
I was a bit afraid that the spots on the picture below were tomato blight, but somebody confirmed that it has probably to do with changes in weather and watering, which can be totally true. I hope it is true at least. I can’t wait to try out all the tomatoes that are growing on the 79 tomato bushes.
We are harvesting a lot of green things right now from the garden. And although they are not my favourites, I’m really happy that I have planted enough of these varieties to get us through these last fairly sober months (kitchen garden wise). I have made a lot of sautéed kale/chard the last few weeks. Probably about two times a week. But we are having sprouting broccoli as well, which is something new in our garden, especially this time of year. Very tasty!
BEANS, PEAS, SOY, CHICK PEAS
As I said somewhere at the beginning of this post. We are harvesting peas, but I haven’t sowed enough peas this year. So every time we harvest a bunch, it’s really just a bunch. I have to remember to sow tons of peas next year, maybe as early as in november!
The beans are growing really well. I started most beans in pots and transplanted those to the garden as soon as they popped up. The dwarf beans are showing flower buds now and the climbing beans are slowly reaching the end of the poles, so I expect them to start cropping soon.
Then something new again. I have sown soy this year. I had two kinds in my kitchen and wondered if they would do something if I would plant them in the garden. They sprouted and look very healthy. I am very curious how they will continue to grow. I’m by now means a soy expert, I don’t even know what to do with my dried soy beans in my kitchen, but I’m sure I’ll find my way in this new field. I always feel more motivated to do something with edible things when I grow them myself, rather than when I buy them. Strange, but true.
CARROTS & PARSNIPS
So technically these fall under the root veggies that I mentioned above, but I am feeling comfortable enough in this post to make my own categorisation of crops. And in this case the carrots and parsnips get a class on their own, mostly because they are in a totally different growing stage than the beetroot. The carrots and parsnips are tiny and are far from harvesting. Which isn’t a problem for me, I am already super happy that I can see tiny seedlings popping up. I haven’t had the ideal soil for growing root veggies the last couple of years, so I have mostly focused on growing tiny Paris carrots, but this year I think I’m going to get a decent crop.Th
I have sown parsnips on different spots in the garden, but also in soil blocks, that I planted out later on. Those are growing very well (the soil-blocked ones). You can see them next to the lettuce on one of the pictures above. If I get decent size parsnips from that bed, I will continue to sow parsnips like that from now on.
I always sow and grow corn in my kitchen gardens, but the only time that I grew decent corn was the first year. After that everything went downwards. I have the feeling that this year I will approach the success of the first year. I have four different patches of growing in the garden and all of them are growing really well. I’m thinking that they enjoy what I did to the soil this last year. They also do enjoy the water I give them and the fertiliser.
What’s left? The leeks. I sowed leeks this year, but they turned out to be spring onions?.?.? And then luckily I bought leek sets and Eduard planted those out about a month ago (when I didn’t know that my leeks were spring onions in reality). They seem to like the way they are planted out. The leeks in the shadow seem to grow faster, but maybe they are trying to reach for light, I don’t know. At the same time the leeks in the sun might be craving for water? We have now about 60 leeks growing. I might sow some more this month.
The herbs in the garden are thriving. I have already relocated most of my potted up herbs to the vegetable garden and I think in the upcoming month the ones that are left will move upwards too. They seem to do better in full soil than in pots. Especially since it’s so hot and dry this year. I also have new lavender as of this year. I grew it from seed. I’m realising though that it’s not my favourite lavender. So I have to keep my eye open for seeds or cuttings from other varieties.
We have three fruit trees on the plot. The two plums are doing great. I’m hoping to have a bumper crop somewhere in the first half of July. The other tree is a pear and I’m afraid that one will not do anything. It’s pretty shabby looking. Somehow we never seem to cut it back hard enough. It gets really crowded by this time of year and due to that, it gets mould on its leaves. I think we will try next year to cut it back even harder.
You can see the potatoes on the picture above. I haven’t planted a lot of potatoes this year. I was late and I didn’t want to have too much hassle with blight, so I decided to plant only a few potatoes. I want to replace the potatoes on the plot with sweet potatoes in the end, but I can’t seem to create sweet potato slips at the right time of year. And buying the slips is really no option as I find that far too expensive.
ONIONS & GARLIC
I almost forgot my onions and garlic. That would have been a pity. These guys are rocking it this year. I have already harvested some of my garlic. Most of it is still in the ground though. I think I will harvest everything by the beginning of next week. We are expecting 70mm of rain in three days, I think that will be too much for garlic this time of year, so they will have to be harvested before that happens. You can see the garlic somewhere up on this post. Next to a courgette and an artichoke.
The onions have never been so happy I think. I’m not sure what I did well this year, but they are seriously bulking up. I was a bit afraid that they were not going to bulk up when I saw how big other people’s onions were. I then read that the bulking up starts around the longest day of the year, so it wasn’t a problem that they hadn’t bulked up yet. Again, just like the leeks, the onions that are in half-shadow are doing better than the ones in full sun. Keep in mind that we are in a warmish part of Europe, so half shadow might mean full sun in a colder region.
Let me close the crops line off with my aubergines or eggplants. Grown from seed! Oh my, they look so healthy and they have beautiful flowers already. I’m growing three varieties this year, which is an upgrade to earlier years. I can’t wait to make my first vegetarian moussaka of the year!
Watering and mulch
Some last remarks on watering and mulch. First the watering part. I somehow created swales by creating raised beds on a slope. This was a very useful thing during the first part of the growing season when I didn’t have my watering hoses installed. I just left one hose on the highest path/swale in the garden and within an hour all the paths would be filled with water. Very practical! Last week – with the extreme rain – I realised that these paths/swales come in super handy with rain too. Where most of the paths towards/outside the garden were severely damaged by the rain, our garden seemed to be fairly intact. I think it’s because the water could follow the paths I created and didn’t get the chance to make it’s own path. So I’m happy with this unintended practicality.
Right now we have installed our drip hoses, which is super handy. As soon as I install the mulch I can leave the water on permanently. It can slowly drip under the straw and keep the ground moist enough. You might think that it’s not good to water your plants permanently, but it has worked very well here in the past and it’s only a bit at a time. During daytime it’s so hot that the plants really need all the water they can get. Mind you, I plant my plants extremely close to each other.
That brings me to the second point: mulching. I love to mulch in the garden. For two reasons. First of all because I don’t have to worry much about the water. Whether is enough or not enough. The mulch balances out the water. It keeps things moist when it’s too dry (which it generally is) and it keeps the top part of the soil dry when it’s raining too much. And that’s the second reason why I like mulch. I find that it helps outdoor tomatoes thrive in wet conditions. You see, the problem with blight is that rain falls on the soil and the wet soil (with all the fungi) bounces back up onto the leaves and then the leaves get all mucky and in some cases ill. You can either choose to place a cover on top of your tomatoes to prevent rain from falling down on the soil below your tomatoes or you can place mulch on the soil, which will be a barrier in between the soil and the plant. Keeping your plants healthy as long as possible.
We will source our mulch locally (hopefully) at the same place as last year. This year we are getting 10 bales of straw for 20 EUR. Which is a bargain I think.
By the way, the paths are mulched with free wood chips that I got at the local dump. They are offering green waste wood chips there for free. I think I got about 1500L of those alone for the garden. I could have easily gotten twice as much as the garden seems to swallow the mulch. But we had enough of bringing up stuff to the garden.
That’s it. It’s too long already. Forgive me, these monthly updates are gigantic, will have to think them over!
Other June updates: