Jobs for the month: June 2012
By: Web Editor
Lift first early spuds - The first of the early potatoes can be lifted this month for your first taste of outdoor grown new tubers. Take care when lifting not to spear the tubers – use a fork with wide spaced tines if you have one (of course a potato fork is ideal), and insert it into the ground a good 30cm (12in) from the crown of the plant. If the majority of tubers are still quite small, you may decide to just lift what you need for a taster and to leave the rest for another few weeks to ‘fatten up’.
Try to remove all the tubers as any remaining in the soil will start to shoot and may become a nuisance among subsequent crops. They can also be a target for blight later on and once infected may harbour the disease to infect subsequent crops or tomatoes. Eat the newly lifted potatoes straight away.
Tend to gooseberries
Along with strawberries, gooseberries are among our earliest fruits to crop. Despite an impressive armoury of thorns, scavenging birds will snaffle those berries which are easy to reach given the chance so you might decide to net the bushes – although in recent seasons we have had such a heavy crop on the KG plot that we have been happy to allow our feathered friends to take a few. Much of the rest goes to making delicious jam.
Many varieties are susceptible to American gooseberry mildew which produces a white coating over leaves and fruit, lowering quality and yield. This tends to attack the soft new growth at the ends of the branches first. Since this isn’t required it can now be pruned back to a few buds beyond the last developing fruit.
Maintain strawberry beds
You should have fed your strawberry beds in March or April and now is a good time to apply a mulch of straw to keep the developing fruit from the ground so ensuring it doesn’t become soiled by dirty rain splashes. The mulch also helps to deter hungry slugs although it is a good idea to give a light scattering of animal friendly slug pellets to the soil prior to laying the mulch.
Birds will become very interested in your crop as it begins to ripen, so take some time to cover the plants as soon as possible and to put any bird deterrents in place such as suspended old CDs, polythene bags or humming tape.
If your plants are young and healthy and you would like to increase your stocks you can propagate from them using new runners as they are produced. Simply trail them out and allow them to root into the soil between the plants or bury compost-filled pots near the rows and pin the runners down on to that. After 5-6 weeks they should have rooted and can be cut free from the parent.
If you don’t wish to use the runners for propagation purposes they are best removed since they will drain energy from the fruiting parents and tend to congest the bed if allowed to root anywhere.
Plant squashes and pumpkins
Providing the weather is warm, squashes (butternuts, summer and winter squashes, cucumbers and pumpkins) can be planted outside this month (first see ‘harden off young plants’ above). They are greedy feeders so they need a sunny, sheltered spot and a very fertile soil, preferably a patch which had lots of well rotted manure, leafmould or garden compost added to it in the autumn. Even so these are one crop that can’t really have too much of a good thing and will benefit from more organic matter dug into the planting hole, plus a dressing of general fertiliser (see ‘plant outdoor tomatoes’ above), dug into the planting site.
Squashes are best planted on a small mound of well mixed soil and organic matter which is about 15cm (6in) high and at least 30cm (1ft) in diameter. This ensures that excess water can drain away from the main stem.
Unlike tomatoes, these plants should be planted no deeper than the level of the top of the compost in the pot. Firm gently and water with a can fitted with a fine rose to thoroughly soak the soil. Plants also require plenty of water and it can help to ensure they get enough if an old drinks container or similar is cut in half and buried so that it funnels water and liquid feed to the roots during the summer. Alternatively, use a drip irrigation system where a nozzle (two nozzles in the case of large pumpkins) can be positioned near to the roots. Support the stems with a stake initially to prevent wind damage until the plants toughen up.
• Read the full article in Kitchen Garden magazine, May 2012!
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