Posts tagged ‘spring’

March 25, 2012

I like

by growingpeople

…the way my clever students at St Mary Magdelene Primary School use egg shells, empty tins and crisp packets for starting off seedlings. Happy days. Speaking of which, now is the time for starting more or less everything (keep the beans, tomatoes and pepper seedlings inside until May though, and hold off on sowing pumpkins, squash and courgettes at all until then).

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May 13, 2011

May

by growingpeople

After February and April comes May (we skipped March, sorry, but it’s essentially the same as the other two), and things are getting interesting in the edible garden. Perennials like lovage and echinacea are coming into growth after a winter below ground, and the leaves of the Salix alba and Akebia quinata are back. The seedlings that were sown indoors in the earlier months can now be re-potted and moved outside permanently and the seedlings sown outdoors are now growing vigorously.  You’ll probably find that as soon as you re-pot or plant out, the plants have a growth spurt, as their roots have been constricted for the past few weeks. My tomatoes need a cane to lean on now that they are over 30cm tall.

There’s much to do in May as the more tender plants including fennel, green beans and courgettes can be sown now that the danger of frost has definitely passed. These should all be sown indoors and planted out as soon as the seedlings are strong, perhaps with the exception of fennel, which could be sown out now. I’ve also just sown a purple radish, the Hilds Blue, which is slightly more tender than its common red counterpart.

carrot seedlings sown too close together

Thinning out is vital to ensure the growth of crops including radishes, carrots and lettuce. Look at seedlings and pull out any that are growing too close together – imagine the size of a fully grown carrot and remember that each seedling will need that amount of space if it’s going to reach full size. Don’t be tempted to leave in more seedlings than the space can hold, as they just won’t grow and you’ll end up with nothing at all. Runner beans can be sown now – plant in pairs and pull out the weakest plant as soon as they start to grow, and provide support for them from the very beginning. Climbing plants, including runner beans and peas will grow towards the support provided, and without any, will flop and die.

Potatoes should have masses of leaves by now, and will need to be earthed up – simply bury the lowest level of foliage by adding compost to ensure that the tubers aren’t exposed to any light as they break through the soil (this results in green potatoes that you can’t eat).

The first radishes planted back in April should be ready to eat now – keep sowing as you pick them (the same goes for lettuce) to ensure a continuous supply from now right through to the autumn. The radish leaves are edible too, and delicious sautéed in olive oil or added to soup (they are a little too tough to eat raw, although this recipe for radish leaf pesto is a great way of getting around that).

Beneficial flowers like nasturtium and calendula can still be sown this month if you haven’t done so already – I’m finding the nasturtiums particularly helpful at luring black fly away from my broad beans.

And although it sounds obvious, it’s vital to water a lot, particularly if you, like me, are growing in pots. Most plants can survive on just a little water, but need plenty more water to produce the flowers which will eventually produce fruit in the coming months. In this weather, I’m watering at least every other day, and leaving a plate under each pot to minimise the water that drains away.

Keep on top of weeds, again particularly if growing in pots, as plants already have a limited amount of space and nutrients and the weeds only add to that competition.

May is the month to enjoy watching things grow, as it will all happen in quick succession between now and June – I continue to be amazed at how suddenly the flowers have appeared on the broad beans that were nothing more than little shoots only weeks ago, and how quickly the tomatoes develop from skinny seedlings to thick, strong plants.

Finally – because this is what it’s all about, after all – here’s what’s growing in my garden this month, as well as potatoes, chard, beetroot, Anemone coronaria, spinach, calendula, foxglove, rosemary, fennel, runner beans, parsley, chives, sweet pea, radish, Schisandra grandifloraAkebia quinataSalix alba, sweet pepper, Verbena bonariensis, basil, jasmine, iris, lavender and Myosotis (forget-me-nots).

broad beans and nasturtiums

Philadelphus, raspberry, tomatoes

strawberry, borage and nasturtium seedlings

tomatoes, sunflower, carrot

Echinacea, Potentilla, lettuce

tomato, oca

lovage, thyme

borage, squash, mint

May 5, 2011

Foraging for food in Lower Clapton

by growingpeople

Back in January, I discussed the virtues of the Silverberry, or Elaeagnus x ebbingei, one of the only berries I know of which is ripe in the early spring. The one I walk past every day grows within the gardens of a residential care home, and  is now fruiting heavily. So this afternoon, after weeks of waiting for the berries to ripen, we went and picked a bucketful.

I’d been on the look out for suggestions of what to do with the berries for ages, but the only thing anyone seems to be doing with them is making jam. Until I came across this recipe on the fantastic Gardenbytes, (the owners of which “explore everything from foraging to formal gardens” in NYC) where the bright red berries are blended to a pulp (use a hand moulis with large holes so that the seeds are left behind) and baked into bread. You can also try these as a coulis, sweetened with honey.

Many thanks to the staff of the Median Road Resource Centre for letting me come into the gardens and strip the bushes bare!

April 4, 2011

April

by growingpeople

Spring is here. I can say that with conviction because I’ve worn sunglasses and flip flops for 3 consecutive days (granted, I’m cold blooded) and because I took the tomato seedlings outside for a sunbathe on Saturday. And Reda has started cycling to work again, which, as those who know him will vouch, can only mean one thing.

 

sunbathing tomatoes

...and Safi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So.

Technically there could still be some late frosts between now and the end of April so hold off on moving tender seedlings like peppers, aubergines and tomatoes out permanently until early May, but the vast majority of your seeds can be sown outside this month. That includes carrots, radishes, fennel, peas, beetroot, spinach, kale, chard, lettuce, turnips and spring onions.  I recommend starting kohlrabi, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli off inside and planting them out in May though, when they are roughly 8cm tall.

Potatoes and other tubers can go into the ground now if they aren’t already.

You can also sow a huge range of edible or beneficial flowers around this time, including marigolds, sweet peas, borage, nasturtiums, chamomile. Sunflowers should be sown indoors for another few weeks.

And parsley, dill, sage, chives and coriander can all be sown outdoors sometime this month, while the more tender basil should be started off indoors and planted out in May.

Hold off on beans and courgettes – these are two common vegetables which really need warmth and which you need to wait until June to sow.

Have a look at these pages for ideas on what to plant together – particularly if you’re lacking in space or using containers.

January 11, 2011

Edible of the week: Elaeagnus x ebbingei

by growingpeople

Elaeagnus x ebbingei is a common evergreen shrub, recognisable by the beautiful silver underside of its leaves. It’s generally grown as an ornamental, but is incredibly valuable in the permaculture garden as it produces huge amounts of edible red berries in April and May, when few other fruit are available – these berries are widely used both in Chinese medicine and cooking. Thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, a liquid extract of the fruit is used for the treatment of arthritis.

It’s also a nitrogen-fixer, being one of the plants with the Rhizobia bacteria on its roots, and so has the added benefit of increasing your soil’s fertility when grown on a vegetable patch, while not really needing any attention or nourishment of its own.

If you locate an Elaeagnus hedge in your area, it’s worth keeping an eye on it towards late spring, as it really fruits very heavily. Pick the berries when they turn a deep red; any lighter than that and they’ll be fairly acidic. At the centre of the berry is a single seed covered with a fibrous coating – the seed is edible but you’ll probably want to spit out the tough coating.

06.05.11 See here for an update on recipes to try with your harvest.

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