We all looked curiously at the five jars of strawberry jam that Aideen made last night…it looked like jam but had it set? This is the great mystery to those of us who haven’t made jam before, that and the worry about correct sterilisation of jars. Once you are familiar with these things, you probably don’t give them a second thought…yes the jam had set… well done Aideen!
Whilst out on my morning patrol around the kitchen garden before getting dad up, I made a gruesome but fascinating discovery. In a little heap on the path was what looked like a fur-ball surrounded by shiny squashed bodies of insects. After a few puzzled moments, I realised it must be an owl dropping, we are seeing a lot more owl activity in recent months which I am thrilled by. I have a lot to do today in my quest to get on top of the veg planting situation, but as usual, another job presents itself as urgent and delays me starting my list of jobs. In the last few days I have noticed when watering the polytunnel that the jet of water from the hose is making plants bend and fall over. This is because everything is growing and needs tying again. So, I go around the central bed retying nearly 50 tomato plants, 25/30 sunflowers and probably 20 cucumbers. This takes a while, but then everything remains upright whilst watering.
Delayed by at least an hour, I head off with any spare squash and pumpkins to find them a home. There are two spare places in the pumpkin patch and I decide to do my own version of the ‘3 sisters’ planting system and plant some squash plants under the sweetcorn. In this system, you plant squash under corn to supress weeds, and beans to grow up the sweetcorn plants. The more experienced I become in veg growing, the more I understand the drawbacks of monoculture. Hence my companion planting, it is so much healthier to have diversity. It attracts pollinators and confuses pests, provides shelter from wind and rain which stops soil being eroded, often adds nutrients to the soil and looks so much nicer. Even in the polytunnel I follow the same philosophy, I have lots of sunflowers growing strongly beside my cucumber plants and they will provide extra support to the cucumbers and attract pollinators.
I then plant out my courgettes in two large beds in the potato quarter. These beds already house some spare box bushes which I will eventually move and use for topiary. The beds have a lot of self-seeded larkspur (loved by bees) and Californian poppies (also loved by bees) which create a beautiful colour combination of brilliant orange, deep blue and purple. I plant quite a lot of courgette plants, some of which may actually be squash plants due to confusion over labels in the root trainer. If they are all courgette plants, my ‘What Will We Do With All These Courgettes’ book will come in handy! I then interplant both beds with about 70 zinnia plants. This will make these beds look very colourful. Aideen and Meave come out briefly to finish weeding two more beds, one of which contains the biggest sage bush I’ve ever seen.
I then plant out a tray of nearly 40 endive plants (4 varieties) which look very appetising and a tray of about 35 chicory plants (4 varieties). I then plant about 36 chard plants (4 varietes) and 16 Parsnip plants. I also add some climbing nasturtium and ipomoea to the bases of the arch. I now feel I’m making some progress, the only desperate veg left in the tunnel are two root trainers of dwarf French beans. I will plant these tomorrow along with a selection of flowers that are too large for their trays…cleome, rudbeckias, achilleas and Osteospermums. When these are planted I can start planting the cannas and dahlias at last!