Thursday, 14 July 2011
July harvest: week two
It had to happen, though when it came, it was more sudden than I expected: the end of the soft fruit harvest. I lost a fair amount to laziness - some shrivelled berries dropped to the ground, some were too far gone to use. But most - well over 75% - have been harvested, I'd say, and I don't begrudge the earth taking back some of what it gave me. There was far more than I needed anyway.
The sun has shone rather a lot in the past couple of weeks. The temperatures have been pleasant, the wind light. Evenings and nights have been cool, which may suit some plants more than others. In general, it's a "normal" English summer I suppose - though it's been so long since we had one (last year there was a hosepipe ban here, the last few years have seen prolonged heavy rain), it's hard to tell. I suppose what I mean is this is what I hope for in the summer - it's not Mediterranean, let alone subtropical, but it's nice. Ideal for spending time outside, which encourages me to tend to plants, pull up weeds, and do general building work and maintenance, which I might otherwise neglect.
For the first time in weeks, the harvest is dominated by vegetables again. Just as the broad beans were a blip when they finally matured, so this time it is with the shallots. I had two varieties, in three locations - "Red Sun" and "Golden Gourmet". They were purchased on a whim, reduced, from Wilkinson (a general store, very useful for those of us in the town centre without a car, as they sell lots of gardening and DIY products). They cost around £1.30 a bag, with 40-50 sets in each one. I had a main bed, on the lower part of the sloped part of the back garden (around 2 metres by half a metre), in an old recycling box, and in the front, in a corner. The main bed thrived, the box shallots have done okay, but are quite small, and those in the front got overshadowed by weeds and other vegetables, and have shrivelled, though survived. This week I picked all the main bed, and acidentally pulled up one cluster in the front. They range in size from similar to a clove of garlic, up to the size of a golfball, though most are about halfway between these two extremes. The main bed yielded a large weight (see below), which for reference is about 125-130 separate bulbs. I am really impressed by that - they were cheap, easy, and I only fed them once, at the start, by enriching the soil with a little compost, and a sprinkling of blood, fish, and bone. They were not watered after the initial planting. So they epitomise the ideal small garden crop: low-maintenance, cheap, and providing a large crop in a small space. They will be a fixture in my garden forever more.
Totals for week 8th-14th July:
10th: 461g raspberries*, 21g spinach (day total: 482g)
11th: 50g shallots
13th: 2.574kg shallots**, 84g strawberries, 16g blackcurrants, 367g raspberries (day total: 3.041kg)
14th: 12g beetroot, 31g beetroot tops, 59g turnip (day total: 102g)
Total for week: 3.675kg
Year to date total: 17.698kg
As you can see, I beat my informal target this week, which was 16.5kg. I must say, I'm becoming rather blasé about it - but I ought to remember how ecstatic I was with a few tens of grammes per week back in the spring. July to October is the heavy cropping season, of course, when the garden has the most sunshine to convert into produce, and where the work of the spring bears literal fruit. However, this is also a time to be planning for the next six to nine months - as there is a great deal that can be sown into the spaces left by beans, peas, and shallots.
So what's the plan? Well, the tomatoes and summer beans are mostly self-sufficient, needing just occasional tying in, pinching out, feeding, watering, and inspecting. Pleasant tasks, especially in the summer sunshine. What really needs my attention is sowing and preparing ground. At this time of year, seeds germinate very quickly - in days in many cases - so it won't be long before fresh greenery appears around the place, which mitigates a little the feeling of sadness as the summer turns into autumn.
A few conventional British crops can be sown now, just: beetroots, summer spinach, spring onions, radish, and lettuces, and even late peas. I'll try to make room for all those, but I'm really concentrating on "oriental vegetables", of which a great range is now available, and which have the advantages of varying hardiness (so some will go right through the winter, especially under cover), novelty (shapes, flavours, and textures that will liven up the garden and the kitchen), and speed (some will be ready in four to six weeks). I've got pak choi, tsoi sim (choy sum), kailaan, komatsuna, mustard greens, mizuna, mibuna, mispoona, and a few more whose names I haven't yet learned. And a few random crops: amaranth, orach, kohl rabi, radicchio, and black winter radish. Making room for all of these will be a challenge, but I will be creative. If all goes to plan, September and October will be fruitful times indeed!
*includes 100g estimate, fruit I picked and immediately gave to my granddad without weighing.
**picked 11th, left to cure in the sun until the 13th, when they were cleaned and weighed.