Notes from the Garden: First fruits May 17, 2017 00:00
The garden in Spring always reminds me of that Zorba the Greek dance. It starts off slowly, a kick here, a nod there and all of a sudden... IT IS OFF! Right now, the garden is at full speed and I love it. The wilful, devil may care whirlwind of colour & frenetic energy is just brilliant.
But, while the riot of colourful flowers are out front, high kicking all the away, it is the quieter emergence of fruit that for me, is the most exciting thing happening out there.
The last few years have been hit and miss in terms of fruit production in my garden. Wet, bedraggled winters have resulted in a lack of pollination for our young cordons. Gooseberries and blackcurrants had sat in the wrong part of the garden for years, suffering from a good deal of neglect and all that the weather had to throw at them.
Recently, we've tried to rectify all that we can. The front garden is now the veggie garden, close enough to a tap to get watered a bit more regularly and receive a little more attention. I've a row of young apple trees, growing as cordons along one fence. Having read up a bit on apple pollination groups, I now have a happy little gang, each helping the other out to produce more fruit.
And all of a sudden, it is starting to pay off.
For the first time in EIGHT years, the pear cordons have pollinated. Honestly, I can't tell you how excited I am about this. I am literally the human version of that flamenco dancing emoji, shimmying about the place.
Moreover, the apples are showing more fruit than ever. The gooseberries and blackcurrants survived the undignified way in which they were uprooted and moved to the new veg patch last autumn and are producing the goods.
So, now all that we need is rain overnight and sunshine by day for the next few weeks and we'll be gorging ourselves on berries and blooms from the garden. Ah. The weather. Ok, well, let's see...
I'm expecting the apples to start to follow the time old tradition of the 'June Drop' in the next few weeks - nothing serious, just nature's way of thinning out the crop to produce the best fruit with minimum damage to the tree. If nature needs a hand, I have my Dad's old fruit farm diaries from the late seventies as a reference, where he recorded how and when they thinned fruit. More on that, if needed, next month.
In the meantime, if all this talk of food has got you thinking about growing your own, here are five easy ways to get started this week...
1. Tomato plants: Cheap, easy and ready to buy now, tomato plants are perfect for a warm, sunny windowsill. All they need is feeding regularly once in flower, pinching out side shoots (to keep them on the straight and narrow, so to speak, in terms of fruit production) and a bit of space and support as they grow. If you decide to position them outside, just keep an eye out for late frosts and bring in if colder weather is due.
2. Runner beans. Talking of weather, I'm going to go for it and sow some beans this weekend. Frost and cold days, begone! Sow seeds in close proximity to a pole, bamboo cane or broomstick and with fingers firmly crossed for warm weather, you'll have the sprouts of newly germinated bean seed in no time.
3. Space savers: If space is a problem, there are plenty of edibles to grow in pots. Herbs do brilliantly in all sorts of spaces, but you can also grow carrots, lettuce, rocket and chard really easily in pots dotted around the place. Just choose a tall pot for carrots as they need plenty of growing room underground. Strawberries also do well in planters as well as in hanging baskets. Ooh, and I've just remembered about my friend who grows lettuce in a length of guttering positioned half way up her fence. No back breaking needed!
4. Grow together: You often find you have more seed than you need in an average packet of seed. So go to the garden nursery with a friend, buy a selection between you and split the bounty as and when it appears. Most garden nurseries around here also offer a mean cuppa and cake (photo from King John's Nursery in Ticehurst, Kent. Literally, a slice of heaven can be found up there!). Rude not to!
5. Unplug and plant: Just like tomato plants, there are all sorts of veggies that have been grown from seed and are sat in the garden nursery, awaiting your arrival. If seeds aren't your thing, make life easy. Simply, purchase, unplug and plant. No one will ever know...