This week’s first job is getting our sweetcorn planted in a raised bed outside. These plants were sown in a Vitopod propagator just 2 weeks ago and have already grown to around 10cm tall and will now get more benefit from being planted in the ground.
As I have grown these in a heated environment it is best to harden them off gradually before planting them, this might seem unnecessary when the weather is warm outside but in our case the polytunnel has reached temperatures of 50oc recently so it is best not to shock them. To harden off the plants I moved them outside during the day and brought them back inside at night for a couple of days before planting.
The border had been prepared earlier by removing any weeds and digging in some compost, like most plants sweetcorn will prefer a free draining moisture retentive soil, they will not grow well in heavy clay soils so it is worth taking some time to prepare the ground. Contrary to what people think sweetcorn will be best planted in large informal groups rather than rows, this is because they rely on the wind to pollinate their flowers, however they will not tolerate an exposed overly windy position. The plants should have developed a tap root in the pot so be careful not to damage this when removing the pot as it may have grown through the bottom, other than this simply make a hole in the ground, place your plant in and firm into place. If you are planting out now you can expect a crop in mid to late summer.
Of course it is great picking the fruit and vegetables from plants that you have grown, but personally I like this time of year when every plant in our polytunnel has a flower on it. Many of these flowers hold the promise of fruits to come, however there are some which are grown purely for their ornamental qualities. Dahlia tubers can be eaten and have been for many years as an alternative to potato, however why would you when you can get stunning flowers like these?
Believe it or not this War of the Roses Dahlia currently stands at over 6 feet high having been cared for by our Gardening Angel Paul. This particular variety is considered a rare type of dahlia and will produce both white and red flowers as well as the mixed colour flowers as in the picture above all through the summer.
Yellow is well represented in our polytunnel by the tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and even the tiny cucamelon. Both cucumbers and courgettes produce male and female flowers, if you are having trouble getting your courgettes to set fruit this may be because both male and female flowers have not been present at the same time. Unfortunately this is a purely physiological problem which should be temporary as more flowers are produced in the season, alternatively you could grow multiple plants.
The Cucamelon have started flowering this week, each plant producing many tiny yellow flowers each with its own fruit developing behind the flower.
Our rocket growing in the Saladgrow has started to go to seed, when this happens the rocket isn’t as good to eat as it goes a bit tough and loses its taste. You can cut out the flowering stems which will encourage new growth which you can continue to harvest for your salads but I think it’s worth taking the time to enjoy these papery flowers before you cut them down.
We have many varieties of chilli growing in our polytunnel, my favourite is the Chenzo variety which produces lots of jet black chillies. But before the fruits develop we are treated to stunning white flowers fringed with purple, as each flower is pollinated the fruit will form behind the flower. Chilli flowers are self-pollinating however a common problem among chillies grown indoors is when the flower dies without being pollinated; this can easily be remedied by giving your plant a gentle shake which encourages the male and female parts to touch. You can see the female part of the plant in the very centre of the flower surrounded by the male parts on the picture below.
Of course the reason we love these flowers is for the fruit and vegetables they go on to produce and this week we have harvested our Borlotti Beans, Courgettes, Sugar snap peas and Kohl Rabi. The great thing about these is that everything from the fruit to the leaves and flowers can be eaten.