June/July in a Swaledale vegetable garden

Wild thyme on the bank sides near Healaugh

June has excelled itself – warm and sunny for the most part. In fact, until early July, we have had very little rain and as a result some of the onions became stressed and have begun to grow flower stems or ‘bolt’ prematurely. By snipping off the flower stems we can save the onions as this will stop them wasting energy in producing seeds.

Beetroot in a raised bed in the tunnel, ready to harvest.

The tunnel has been very hot on certain days but by watering the ground the air has been kept a lot cooler. Growth has been rapid and we are harvesting our first carrots, beetroot, yellow dwarf French beans, abundant salads, the occasional strawberry and a few broccoli heads. As space becomes free re-sowings are made to hopefully maintain a supply of vegetables throughout the year. The runner beans have almost reached the top of their canes and are in flower, and the first small fruits are beginning to develop on both courgettes and tomatoes. It is important at this stage to keep up the weekly high potassium feed. We use homemade comfrey feed. Watch out for side shoots developing on cordon tomato varieties as these need nipping out when they are small whereas bush varieties can be left to grow bushy. Among the tomatoes, distinct and strong smelling ‘Tagetes’ have been planted with the aim of repelling green fly and white fly.

Runner beans wirth dwarf yellow beans below
Courgettes in flower

The squash, aubergines, chillies and peppers are finally growing more strongly and are showing signs of their first flowers. Purple sprouting broccoli, sprouts and kale have all germinated in trays and will be planted out once ground becomes free.

Young broccoli heads. A little forced in the hot tunnel, so the heads are small.

Outside, the quick growing choi sum is finished but was worth growing as it was delicious in stir fries or steamed. The yellow mangetout are cropping heavily and there are plenty of salads. Broad beans are just in flower and have been staked so they don’t fall over. We have netted the young cabbages, pinning down the netting well, as last year they were eaten by a plague of caterpillars and the plants were ruined. We have been looking into companion planting and so in among the onions we have sown rows of carrots as the strong smell of onions should help repel carrot root fly. We have had a very sad rat problem with the potatoes which were almost ready. They have eaten most of all the tubers below ground and left the dying tops.

Second early potatoes, just in flower
Broad beans just beginning to flower

We have been trialling a fleece mat made from Swaledale wool. It is an alternative to coir, which is coconut fibre, and will save the carbon footprint of bringing coir from abroad. It can be used as a prevention against slugs around particularly young plants or strawberries or is a great alternative for hanging basket liners, tree guards or to suppress weeds. It is hoped production will begin in the very near future.

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