Despite planting three citrus seeds in my propagator last weekend part of me did not any success from them. Even under the plastic cover, behind glass, I thought the weather in London would not be warm enough for these plants accustomed to growing in northern Italy. However, I was delighted to see that two of them have sprouted already! That is record speed so I am pretty excited now about their potential.
The original idea to plant citrus seeds came from a book I was browsing in my local pub (don’t you just love pubs with bookshelves?). Well, I went back to that same pub yesterday, in the name of research of course, and re-read the instructions about growing your own citrus from seeds you collect yourself.
Here is the spread from the book. I like this book; one spread per topic with one photo and one page of text. It turns out, according to the book (I didn’t get the name of the book, I guess I will have to go back again!), that the most successful seeds you can collect and grow yourself are lemons and limes. Peaches, nectarines and even avocado can all be tried as well. Unfortunately avocados need to reach 12 metres before they will bear fruit. I think that would require a very large pot!
The bad news is the book tells me that seeds acquired from the fruit of a friend’s tree (as mine were) are unlikely to flower and consequently bear fruit. It seems a cutting would result in more success. More bad news, for others, if you wish to try and grow orange citrus (mandarins, clementines etc) the fruits from the supermarket are unlikely to sprout, although you may get lucky. Nonetheless, I conclude that all citrus plants have lovely, lush, evergreen leaves. So even if you do not get any little clementines growing on your new plant they are still pretty to look at and worth the effort of saving a couple of pips and giving it a try.
Given the great weather in June there was still surprisingly little to eat in the garden. One thing we had was a few last strawberries before the plants got a bit excited about throwing out runners at any crack of land within a few metres reach.
Other plants were mostly beginning to set fruit. The pea, tomatoes, French beans and courgette had all moved past flowers onto early fruits too small to be eaten yet.
The basil was in full flow by June and we could hardly keep up with the rate we were getting leaves so we decided to do a big harvest and dry it. It was good to thin the plants out a bit and slow them down because they need to be kept tidy. We laid the picked leaves on a couple of cookie sheets and put them in the oven, with the door ajar, for over an hour on a very low heat. I took them out a couple of times and turned them over. As soon as a few of them were brittle I took them out and crumbled into a jar. Ideally there should have been kitchen paper under the leaves and I think that this would have helped as the under side was ‘sweating’ a bit. The result was that some leaves didn’t dry quite thoroughly enough.
It was nice to harvest some basil but I have mixed opinions about drying them this way. Using the oven, even on a low heat, for such a long time only for some basil seems wasteful. Also the masses of leaves dried down to what seemed like a small amount once it was put into a jar. Finally the taste of dried basil compared to fresh is totally different. This is not necessarily a bad thing of course, both are delicious in their own ways. But our dried basil tastes different from ones we have previously bought so it will take a little bit of getting used to. On the other hand this is a great way to save basil for the winter or darker months of the year and the leaves can be dried by hanging them in a warm, place which would much be much more energy efficient.
So that was June, a busy month of warm weather: everything in bloom and a few earlier things cropping.
The weather at the moment is surprisingly cold and wet. It has been raining on and off for about three days including quite a bad storm on Friday evening. This means that the plants are all well watered, if not a little cold. It seems, surprisingly, that there is very little for us to do with them this weekend. This is definitely a first! Well, there is one thing to do, we can eat the few ripe strawberries we have straight from the plants!
I love tending the vegetables but it is also nice to have a weekend off and get a chance to get back to planning! We have *fingers crossed* found a flat in London to move to in about a month. It has been a slow and tiring process trying to find somewhere to live with our own piece of private outdoor space. Honestly I was near the brink and almost considering abandoning the plants in favour of our own comfort. Fortunately we got really lucky and found a flat with a nice private roof terrace attached. This means that we now know for the first time how much space we really have to work with. This is a great relief and also very exciting as I can start planning additional pots full of all the things we have held off planting so far!
As we won’t be able to move to the new place until mid-July today is going to e dedicated to finding out what late sowings we can do. All the plants we have now were sown quite early so we should be able to get a second round sown soon and ready to plant out around the time we move into London properly. That means that we will be able to have follow on crops once our current vegetables are finishing up.
Planning comes close to growing vegetables on the list of things I really love to do. So planning what vegetables to grow is going to be a fun few hours this afternoon.
The strawberries are coming along well. It looks like the first of our fruit is small and nearly ripe enough to eat. So far each of the three plants only has either one or two trusses of fruit. I am not sure if they will develop more. I expect they will ripen rapidly over the next week so we will need to keep an eye on them every day.
The strawberries have been doing OK for us this spring. They did have a bit of trouble with the leaves and flowers being eaten; we now suspect greenfly might be the culprit for that attack. But they have recovered, or struggled on, well. We built our cagefor them in time to keep the birds away. We can’t be certain yet that it will be totally effective but at least we are prepared! The only pest we found was this snail, cunningly hidden inside the net, making its way towards their delicious green leaves.
Here’s to eating our own home-grown strawberries very soon!
The strawberry plants have been popular with pests so far. I now suspect that the culprit for the leaf munching may have been greenfly. Today there were also some small insects on them, looks like more greenfly. Many of the leaves and some of the flowers were destroyed beyond repair weeks ago. Until now we have not done much to protect the plants. We are reluctant to use insecticide unless absolutely necessary and it seems the problem might not be getting worse. We will continue to monitor the greenfly situation and see if we need to take action.
However, there will be fruit soon and there is no way we will be sharing it with the birds if we can avoid it! For this reason we went to the garden centre again this weekend. We bought ourselves two metres of a small grade of black netting. This cost about £2.20.
Back at the house we found some bamboo, string, wire and two old childrens’ hoops. We carefully tied all of this together. One hoop on the bottom, two crosses made of bamboo on either end, two ‘cross braces’ of more bamboo and finally the second hoop on top.
The netting was then pulled over the top (2m x 2m of netting) and clipped in with some clothes pegs. We moved the strawberries together and covered them with the cage. I really hope this is good enough to keep the birds off. If they are very clever they will probably find a way to climb in underneath it to steal the fruit.
I plan to check on the plants first thing every morning while they are fruiting so hopefully we will get there first and the birds can eat something else!
One thing I have found a bit strange about the strawberry plants is that there are one or two runners already. It seems a little bit early to have runners now. I thought that we would get runners after the fruit was finished. We decided to catch the biggest one and try to propagate it. Adam filled a small pot with soil and we used a bent twig to hold it down onto this soil. It should manage to make itself some roots quite soon.
We might as well pot these runners instead of letting them go to waste. If we have too many plants next year we can just give some away.
The strawberry flower petals didn’t seem to last very long. I think they were only around for a week or two. Now that almost all the petals have blown away the fruit is starting to grow in the flower heads. It is still small and green but it looks like we will be getting some strawberry fruit this summer.
We were away for the long weekend so we haven’t done any gardening for more than a week. In our absence the weather was lovely and the plants were all very thirsty. Fortunately everything survived without us for the few days.
The strawberries have come along really well now. They are shooting up in all directions and they now have flowers on them.
I took this picture (apologies it is a little blurry) at dusk and only realised after that there are four greenflies inside the flower!
We really don’t know what has been eating the leaves of the strawberries but some of them are looking quite bad. We are also not sure if the culprit is continuing to eat the leaves or if the holes are growing as the leaves themselves grow bigger. One plant is worse off than the others. We might have to consider some kind of treatment for these, although the plants do look healthy in spite of the holes.