Urban Vegetable Gardening: Reaping The Rewards (June)
Summer is here and the garden is paying off! We know we said last month had been the easiest month of the year so far but June has been a total breeze! We've had 2+ weeks of fresh strawberries & raspberries on a daily basis and the blueberries should be ready soon. This month we've not spent time in the garden working but have been enjoying the fruits of our labour. We had a few failures too which we'll go into later too.
Don't forget - we issued ourselves with the challenge is grow enough fruit and veg to rely only on the garden - for three continuous weeks. We want to build a vegetable and fruit garden that will supply all of our fruit and veg, or as close as possible, for three weeks - from fruits to greens, herbs and edible flowers. The plan is to have no need for any store- or market-bought vegetables or fruit. This blog series will detail each month's activities in the hope that we can encourage you to start growing your own food at home, no matter how small the space.
This month, our focus has been on picking the first of the summer's fruits.
Time To Start The Harvest
With summer marching in, the garden has transformed and our hard work has started to pay off. We've had onions, garlic, kale, lettuce, beans, strawberries, raspberries and a few more ready for picking in the month of June. Such a productive month in terms of what we've been eating but accompanied with very little work. Below are some of our success stories and also our failures. We think it's important to post our progress to show that it's a learning process for us and hopefully you can avoid our mistakes!
Homegrown Fruits & Veggies
The strawberries have been the main act for the month of June. We've had around 200-300 strawberries growing, turning ripe in the space of two weeks. We've had large ones and tiny ones but from our experience the medium sized ones are the sweetest. It's been so fun waking up and collecting strawberries for breakfast from our tiny East London garden. We always make sure the strawberries get enough water as planter-grown fruits can dry out quickly, resulting in a poor crop.
We're not too sure what to do with our blackcurrants - for some reason they taste like roast chicken?! We're considering making our own home-grown brand of Ribena. Any ideas welcome!
Our Purple Queen beans have bounced back from last month's near-death experience. The picture below was taken at the start of the month but in a short few weeks they've already grown taller than the strawberry planter! We eat a lot of beans in our family so they're a great staple to have. In this planter we're growing french beans - which although they're purple when picked they turn green when cooked - as well as our favourite Borlotti beans, which are 6ft+ climbers! We're confident this planter will turn bushy and messy very quickly...
Earlier in the year, Mr Forthergill's sent us some golden raspberries and they're fantastic. We planted a few canes in a planter that receives a fair amount of sun and this month we've seen our first fruits. It's still early days but we're thrilled to have a new variety of raspberry in the garden. We've barely touched the plants, they're very easy to grow and seem to manage themselves very easily. We'd certainly reccommend this variety.
Kale, similar to beans, is a big staple of our diet and this year we decided to double the growing patch. While the plants and therefore the leaves are still small they grow quickly without much attention. The kale plants (purple kale on the left, curly kale on the right) seem to be doing fine in semi shade and actually prefer less direct heat. We've had some trouble with caterpillars though so we think this has stunted some of the plants' growth. Delicious nonetheless.
Fruit & Veg Failures
We've had a few failures in the garden this summer and June has really highlighted what went wrong. Some of our lessons can be found below.
To our huge disappointment blackfly took over the broad bean patch. The tiny black flies literally suck the life out of the plant and ants manage and harvest them for their sweet sap. They plant becomes lined with the flies and although it's still possible for the beans to grow they'll be smaller and grow slower. This also happened to our cherry tree, the ants 'stitch' the leaves together storing the live black fly in order to harvest the sap they produce. This process weakens the plant and is usually a sign that something was wrong with the plant in the first place, as a weak plant invites infection. Though blackfly are typical on broadbeans, we face the dilemma of leaving the blackfly, picking them off by hand or using inorganic chemicals to rid the plants of the flies. In the end we chose to remove flies by hand (with a jet hose) as we were really keen to keep everything in the garden organic, so pesticides weren't an option. The broad beans have managed to grow but we've still had to control the blackfly numbers on a regular basis. You can avoid a blackfly infestation by keeping your plants healthy, watered and in a good condition - but don't be too disheartened if they find their way into your garden!
Unfortunately we didn't consider this as a problem. We thought that by putting our trees in the sunniest patch of the garden they'd grow strong and healthy however we grossly under watered them - as they're in pots they dry out much quicker. All of our growing plums and cherries didn't survive and only two almonds (right image) are still holding on with two peaches too. It's a shame to see our cherries and plums disappear as we had hundreds of flowers on them earlier on in the spring. We'll have to think of a better, more efficient way to water everything for next year.
Snails & Caterpillars
We always knew snails, slugs and caterpillars were a problem in our garden, especially with the brassicas (kale, broccoli etc). However this month we went away for a few days and the stress of under watering and a caterpillar infestation hit our kale hard! We've found lots of holes (bite marks!) in our kale, and although it's still edible it doesn't look as great as before. We'll have to keep a keen eye to pick off any caterpillars or snails that find their way to our kale patch. Beside our kale we have our tenderstem broccoli growing which isn't growing as fast as we were hoping. We hope that they'll be able to overcome the life that is being drained from them and produce some delicious broccoli in the next few months.
Costs this month
This month has been the easiest month so far and we've spent a grand total of £0.00 on the garden. With the increased temperature, though, it is important to keep an eye on the plants to make sure they don't dry out. Every morning we usually water our garden or if it's going to rain that day we water every other day.
60 minutes throughout the month watering the plants.
The plants - new plants & updates
Below is a list of vegetables that we have planted or sown this month.
None - the focus has been on the harvest!
Below is a list of fruits that are currently in the garden, ready to start growing in the spring. We will add to this list as the growing season progresses.
Raspberries - Regular, Golden (fruiting)
Cherry tree - (fruiting)
Blueberries - Dixi, Legacy, Draper, Ozarkblue, Earliblue, Bluecrop (fruiting)
Goji berry shrub
Figs - Panachee & Brown Turkey (fruiting)
Almond - Dwarf - (fruiting)
Peach - Dwarf, great for patios - (fruiting)
Red grape vine (fruiting)
Gooseberry - Red, White (fruiting)
What we need to do - June
Water the space. As with last month, it's really important to not let plants dry out, especially those in small pots as they tend to dry out very rapidly. You'll have better luck with plants growing in the ground or elevated beds but don't let the warm weather sneak up on you and dry out your fruit and veggies. Weak plants are left open to diseases!
Don't let fruit over ripen. With so much growing it's easy to miss a day or two of picking fresh fruit and in excessive heat the fruit can quickly rot which is a real waste!
We're still waiting for our blueberries to be ready - but by next month a large portion of them should be ripe for picking, for now though it's important to keep them well hydrated in case there are any mini heat waves!
What one thing should you do in June?
Enjoy your vegetable garden! Start picking your fruit and veg, making breakfast, lunch or dinner with what you've grown yourself. In many cases, picking ripe fruit or veg only encourages the plant to grow more vigorously! Get picking, learn new recipes and enjoy your green space.
If you have any tips, suggestions or questions about urban vegetable gardening in the UK I'd love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading,
Post supported by Mr Fothergill's & D.T. Brown, who gifted us some baby plants to grow. All reviews are always honest & my own - please share your opinions too! By helping the brands who support this blog, you'll help me in turn to share more ethical products & services :) Thank you again for reading this post!