Time for a belated update from the urban kitchen garden! After a rubbish summer we finally had a mini heatwave in London last week and the sunshine has given the plants the boost that many of them so desperately needed.
We’ve been having plenty of salad leaves, with the Red and Green Salad bowl lettuce giving way to miniature heads of pale green Tom Thumb and the larger red leaves of Amaze lettuce. There’s also enough chervil in one of the window boxes to use it as a salad leaf, great with eggs or fish.
I just cropped the first two Konsa cucumbers and the first Marketmore cucumber too, although that’s not a great haul so far seeing as we have six vines in total. Here’s hoping they make us a few more soon, because both types taste so good when picked fresh.
The spring onions and Japanese bunching onions took a very long time to get started, probably due to this summer’s general lack of warmth and sunshine, but we now have respectable crops that are ready to pick. We have also just picked the first couple of Yellow Tumbling Tom tomatoes (above), which had a great flavour, from the only strong Tumbling Tom plant that came out of this year’s sowings.
None of the other types of tomato have given us any fruit yet, but one of the Romello F1 plants looks like it will begin to feed us soon and I’m looking forward to trying this new cherry-plum variety. I’m also surprised and grateful that tomato blight hasn’t ripped through the entire crop, as conditions for the fungus have been near-perfect for quite some time and this is a heavy blight area.
I ‘stopped’ the two Gardener’s Delight cordon plants last week, nipping out the tops to stop them growing any further in the hope of getting a smaller crop that ripens sooner. They’ve put out four trusses of flowers each and most have formed fruits. Both are growing in containers with marigolds and herbs, which seem to be helping to keep the pests away. The remaining varieties are Gartenperle (bushy cherry) and Tigerella (cordon stripy tomato), and they don’t seem as far developed as the other plants although I’m hoping they’ll do more next month.
Any tired or yellowing tomato leaves are being removed quickly, usually appearing at the bases of the plants, so they can’t become a source of infection or a hiding place for pests. Other than that, there’s not much I can do about blight, as the budget doesn’t stretch to plant sprays and I haven’t been able to find any worthwhile organic or home remedies. If it happens, I’ll ripen as many fruits as I can on the windowsills indoors, and get rid of the infected plants.
There’s also an insurance crop of Verde tomatillos, which allegedly don’t catch tomato blight. The two plants growing in the container together seem to be thriving with a little support and the warmth of a sheltered, sunny spot, and they’ve started making masses of yellow flowers. There are a few ‘paper lanterns’ on each plant now, hiding the green fruits as they start to develop. The surviving tomatillo that’s planted in the ground is doing okay, but it’s about half the size. It might still catch up though, especially if the weather stays good.
The courgettes are still a mixed picture, with one Zephyr F1 growing the most strongly. That’s unusual because it’s in a container, and most of these plants do best in the ground. The other Zephyr in the ground is making tiny fruits, but not doing much else, in spite of being well fed and watered. By contrast, the green Defender courgette is doing pretty badly in a pot, although it survived a hefty early dose of mildew. It might revive and surprise us, who knows? The Defender planted in the ground has given us three baby courgettes and a standard courgette in the last five days, so it seems healthier.
Of the remaining courgettes, the yellow Jemmers are giving out a few small fruits here and there, but it’s not what you’d call impressive and I might not grow them next year. The tromboncino (Tromba di Albenga) courgette has now trailed over half way along the trellis, and is finally bearing foot-long pale green fruits. It was the only seedling that survived so I wasn’t sure if it would do that well, but it seems to be doing okay.
We have a few small fruits on the Butterbush mini butternut squash plants (above), but they’ll need a few more weeks of warm weather if we’re going to get a crop. It’s the only winter squash I’m growing this year, and I hope they stay reasonably compact as we’re running out of space.
The borlotto beans are their usual vigorous selves, grown from last year’s seeds and seeming to adapt to anything the weather throws at them. They don’t have too many pods on them just yet, but some more flowers have bloomed on them in the last few days and there’s plenty of time still left for making those beautiful red-speckled pods.
The French beans were a different story until a couple of weeks ago. We had one or two Tendercrop beans here and there which ended up in salads or ‘vegetable medleys’ (AKA random stuff from the plot) as there wasn’t enough for two servings, but then they responded to the warm weather and we suddenly had a handful or two to pick every day or so. The Cobra beans took much longer to get going but I now see why people rave about them: pretty purple flowers and long, smooth and stringless pods that are tender and refined. They’ve suddenly become prolific, so it’s a good thing that they’re supposed to be good candidates for freezing.
The brassicas are kind of not happening at the moment, but I might write about that in an ‘Epic Gardening Fails’ roundup…
Moving on to the fruit, the strawberries are almost over, the cherries were sadly a non-crop, and the raspberries are just about to get started. I’m letting the rhubarb go unpicked for the rest of the year to recover after giving us so many beautiful stalks in the last few weeks. If it’s strong enough after a long summer rest then I might try to divide it at the end of the Autumn, as long as it’s nice and healthy. It would be nice to have an extra rhubarb plant or two.
As high summer approaches, I’m also looking ahead and starting to think about Autumn and Winter crops. At the moment I’m quite badly behind with this preparation, but promise to get my act together soon.
What are you growing this year? Old favourites or anything new?