I really like this time of year.... now is when you can really start to see the some progress in the garden.
Since I tend to do most of my sowing in one big batch in early Spring, by now most of my seedlings have grown past the needy "baby-me-or-lose-me" stage of their development and have grown up enough to have been planted out in their place in the garden.
The trick now is to stop the snails and slugs ruining all that mollycoddling and pampering by gobbling them up overnight. Most at risk in our garden are the cucumber plants at present - they are still very small - maybe another slug hunt is a good idea! I wouldn't recommend eliminating slugs from the garden the way I did it this week - accidentally standing on them when out in the garden after dark, trying to pick lemon verbena for a pot of herbal tea! Bare feet. Dead slug. Yuck!
At this time of year it is as if the plants are growing inches every time you turn your back - a few days ago I spotted an exciting development in the pots outside the front door - our first baby zucchini for the year! Yes, I know that by the time these plants have finished their work we will be thoroughly sick of eating zucchini, but right now I still get a huge thrill every time I walk past and see that tiny little fruit growing.
These are my favourites - Zucchini Zephyr....they look very cool when they are bigger with their yellow and green colouring and they have the added bonus of tasting really nice.
These zucchini are nutty and sweet without being watery. This is the third year I have grown them and I'm not sick of them yet. We have grown them every year so far in pots and they seem quite happy as long as they get enough water.
Zucchini (or Courgettes)are pretty generous plants! It isn't too late to plant some if you would like a steady supply for the kitchen this year. Zucchini are frost tender and can't be planted out until all danger of frosts is past.
Either sow them in trays for planting out when big enough, or sow them directly into a slightly raised, well-composted bed. Mulch to retain soil moisture. They are best planted following root crops such as carrots or potatoes in your crop rotation. Make sure each plant has enough room - they produce large leaves and spread to about 1.5m x 1.5m. We like having them in pots for this reason as otherwise they take up quite a lot of room in our already crowded garden.
Zucchini can be susceptible to powdery mildew late in the season or in damp conditions and plants that are under stress are more susceptible. You can avoid moisture stress by irrigating your plants to supplement rainfall, but don't overdo it! Too much water can also be harmful. Ensure your plants are not overcrowded (leave about 1m between plants) and make sure they have good air circulation. You can also spray with a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 600ml water to try to slow powdery mildew. Yellow varieties sometimes have yellow patches on their leaves - this isn't a sign of disease but just natural colouring.
Anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you that they can change from zucchini into giant marrow in the blink of an eye - pick them frequently so that the plant will keep producing new flowers and keep fruiting. You may as well enjoy them when they are tiny and tender! Cut the fruit from the plant rather than twisting it, so that you don't damage the plant. If you would like to make stuffed zucchini flowers, keep your eye out for the male flowers. They are the ones which face upwards, whereas the female flowers face downwards. You can pick and stuff the male flowers and leave the female flowers to produce their fruit.
So ... I am looking forward to seeing my baby zucchini grow and tasting my first zucchini of the season. And I'm looking forward to the many more that will follow. Now I just have to convince the children that they are delicious!
I hope that Spring has worked its wonders at your place too! Everything here is growing like crazy. Another excitement in the garden for me this week was my first peas. Not my first peas of the season, but my first ever peas. This is the first year we have grown them and I'm all excited about them. I don't know if any will make it to the pot - they taste awfully nice straight from the pod. The other staff members who grow peas every year don't get why I'm so excited about my peas but I just am. The photo above is not of my first ever pod of peas - it is of the second ever pod of peas because I ate the first ones without photographing them.
This weekend's must-do garden task for me: plant out the tomatoes. At Labour Weekend they were all too small to plant out - now just two weeks later the tomato plants are all looking reproachfully at me and wondering why I have left them with no room for their feet!
Happy Gardening everyone!