Ignoring the tomatoes for a while (they’re growing strongly and beginning to set fruit), I’m looking at how everything else is doing.
Lots of plants are in the process of strengthening, growing and beginning to set fruit & vegetables but the harvest is a bit slow. Some of the difficulty is down to the weather (which goes up and down like mad, earlier in the week it was in the mid 20’s, yesterday it rained all day and today is dull and quite cool) but most of it is my poor sowing technique. I tend to sow a lot and then wonder where to put it. This means I fill up all the space with plants that come to fruition at the same time, then there’s a long gap before the replacements (sown in the same place) get big enough to crop. That’s what has happened with my radishes, the first two rows grew well and have been harvested but, I didn’t sow any follow-on seeds as there wasn’t space. Now I’ve got two more rows in but it will be a couple more weeks until they’re ready to pick, What I should have done (and what the books tell you to do) is to sow half a row every week so that there’s a continuous small crop.
Lettuces are similar, I’ve got lots of lettuces, most of which are just about to bolt but little in the way of reasonable sized seedlings ready to plant out when the space appears. I’m (as ever) learning about my lettuces. I grow a number of different varieties but I never know which ones are early and which ones are late (in fact I don’t keep a decent record of what they’ve done). Not only that but, having a number of different varieties each year, I end up with a pile of seed packets going old and the seeds don’t germinate so I get gaps in my sowing because I’ve sowed seed which doesn’t germinate. By the time I realise this, I’ve a gap in my succession. This year I have been better at keeping a record of what I’ve sown and am better at throwing out the seed packet of the varieties that haven’t germinated.
I’m also more conscious of what’s an early or late variety. One of my favourites is a variety called Black Seeded Simpson. Its a vigorous but early variety which has now come to the end of its season with all of the plants going to seed. There’s no point in sowing any more until September when they germinate with enough time to overwinter (with protection) to give a tasty green lettuce from around March to mid June (now).
I also mucked up my peas. I grow (or at least I meant to grow) sugar snap peas. They’re better in salads than mangetout and don’t need as much podded peas to get a handful to go in a stir-fry. However, I mixed up the seeds and have got a mix of podded peas and sugarsnap. The result is that half of what I pick is too tough to eat in a salad and half of what I leave to turn into peas never make it. However, I have found that growing them up the side of the tunnel seems to work as they grab hold of the tunnel netting and climb away to deliver something.
The strawberries are starting to produce (I will only get a small harvest from the new plants) and, being in the tunnel, the squirrels haven’t yet shown an interest (although they are eating all of the alpine strawberries in the open).
Finally we picked the first (small) harvest of broad beans today and (other than the blackfly) my guess is we’ll get enough for a few meals. Talking of the blackfly, I’ve spent the last few days wandering around collecting up ladybird larvae and dumping them onto the beans. Their difficulty is that they then get attacked by the ants that have been spreading the blackfly. Hopefully we’ll be able to stop them spreading to the rest of the beans and the courgettes.
So: a small harvest of peas, strawberries, broadbeans, lettuce, radish, swiss chard, rhubarb and spring cabbage; tomatoes, french beans, runner beans, carrots, beetroot, courgettes, physalis, cucumbers, radish and swiss chard are all growing and ready to provide more food later on.
All in all a good time.