Vegetables hardest hit by season’s slow start

Vegetables were the crops most affected by the slow start to this growing season in our garden, and it appears we`re not alone in this.

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 11:54 am
Updated Saturday, 26th June 2021, 12:11 pm
Vegetables, including potatoes, were the crops most affected by the slow start to this growing season. Picture by Roland Weihrauch/Getty Images
Vegetables, including potatoes, were the crops most affected by the slow start to this growing season. Picture by Roland Weihrauch/Getty Images

Acquaintances bemoan those prolonged frost-ridden nights and cool daytime temperatures of recent memory. Then just as the soil temperatures rose enough to encourage sowing and planting, the good old rain failed to appear. Even crops in the surrounding fields have been slower to develop this year. It`s occasions such as this that regular action with watering-can or hose can save the day.

There’s a collective sigh of relief now that those vegetables are making up for lost growth time, but I fear that we’re going to miss the target date for lifting first early potatoes this year. The tubers are ideally the size of a large egg by the last week in June but this time around I’m leaving them an extra fortnight for two reasons: Early growing time was lost because it took the shoots over one month to break surface even though the tubers planted were well chitted. And it is so wasteful to dig up a haulm and discover only thumb-nail sized potatoes.

This said, we’ve already savoured early potatoes raised in large pots. Charlotte and Red Duke of York were a mid-May treat. Planted at the beginning of March and left in the greenhouse, they were given the customary ten weeks of growing time. This is something anyone can do, any time of year, if there are sprouting tubers to hand.

Choisya ternata. Picture by Tom Pattinson

Freshly picked strawberries are popular too. In late February ten plants were taken from an outdoor bed and transferred to pots in the greenhouse. The harvesting came last week!

Despite the inclement weather, there are peas and beans in the garden with oodles of flowers; runner beans are romping up the support canes and first blooms are forming on the courgettes. Sweet corn, chard and carrots have suddenly clicked into growth mode, and we are picking some mature, rather than micro-leaves, from perpetual spinach. Each of these plant types was raised in cell trays or pots and marked time in the cold greenhouse until suitable planting out time arrived.

The first outdoor sowings of radish and leaf lettuce varieties have reached the micro-leaf harvesting stage. They were started one month ago so it’s time to sow the same again to ensure continuity.

Ornamentals defy inclement weather

Paradoxically, the hardy ornamental plants in this garden, especially shrubs and herbaceous perennials, have sailed through the inclement weather and are flowering on time. So, we’re enjoying the regular June treats.

The evergreen Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom, pictured) is in full fragrant bloom, and clusters of pink flowers are opening against a background of fresh variegated leaves on the Weigela Florida ‘Variegata’.

From the conservatory window three large patches of white bloom are catching the eye. Spiraea arguta (bridal wreath) is a mass of arching sprays in the long, mixed border.

Beyond that, stands a group of Syringa ‘Madame Lemoine’ (double white lilac), and an arc is completed by a tall hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) standing across the lane, awash with May blossom.

The lilac is notorious for sending suckers to the surface. When these are dug up with roots attached in autumn or spring, they can be replanted and produce flowers true to form.

As soon as the garden shrubs mentioned have completed flowering, new growths that appear make ideal softwood stem cuttings.

There are some interesting colour combinations emerging in the borders right now.

A red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus ‘Elegantissima’) with variegated foliage provides background for the red-purple flowers of the herbaceous Knautia macedonica.

The dark red bracts of Astrantia ‘Hadspen Blood’ contrast with pale blue flowers of Rosemary ‘Miss Jessop’s Upright’. And Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is performing alongside golden yellow flowers of woad (Isatis tinctoria).

Bees are heading for is a mass of blue Symphytum caucasicum (comfrey) that stands one metre tall alongside a two-metre high Ceanothus ‘Concha’ (California lilac). It has literally thousands of flowers and is my plant of the month!