Planting, Growing & Harvesting in the Garden this Summer
Jez Taylor, head of our Market Garden here at Daylesford talks to us about his favourite crops and varieties for this year.
“Summer is the time to make the most of the heat and solar energy of the peak growing season.
In the Market Garden at Daylesford, we designate clear areas of ground for various crops and adhere to a tight schedule of compost spreading, cultivating, sowing, planting and irrigation. From the beginning of May to the end of July we will transplant over 200,000 plants and drill seed into over five acres of ground, to fill our annual growing space.
As the “hungry gap” comes to an end and we take on extra summer staff, we gradually increase the diversity and volume of produce harvested from the garden. We start with radishes, salad onions, little gem, mangetout and cucumbers from the polytunnels in early June, onto soft fruits and early root crops in July, then knee-deep into tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and beans as we hit August.
From the end of May we will be picking overwintered cornflower, sweet rocket, honesty and clary sage, into irises, peonies and polytunnel-grown sweet peas in June, then breathtaking summer dahlias, roses, zinnias, snapdragons and scabious, not to mention the dozens of extra varieties we are trying this season!
With the growing season reaching until the end of October, there are still opportunities to grow crops from summer sowings in your own gardens.
BEST FLOWERS TO GROW IN SUMMER
Nigella, or “Love-in-a-mist” is a cinch to germinate and can be sown from May into June. It is only about 40cm tall so will flower within 8-10 weeks of sowing. The blues and whites of “Jekyll mixed” are particularly useful in bouquet arrangements. After flowering, the seedheads also look great, green or dried. Equally fast-growing are the dainty mini snapdragon, “Linaria maroccana”. Try the “Sweeties” variety, again because they are fairly short and once cut they will regrow, giving opportunities until the frosts of autumn.
BEST EDIBLE CROPS TO GROW IN SUMMER
Late May is a great time to plant dwarf French beans, direct into the soil, giving you lots of fine beans from late August through September. Try the “Faraday” variation. If you want to try something a little different in the bean range, or indeed you find it hard to make the most of your green beans with regular picking, then try “Borlotto di Fuoca”. This variety will give you mottled green pods early on, but if you happen to holiday in August and you leave the pods to mature, then you will get a great crop of pretty pink pods in September and October, filled with melt-in-your-mouth buttery beans.
If you have a really good, protected, south-facing spot against your house then you really do need to attempt outdoor tomatoes. Normally I would recommend a cherry for outdoors as they always produce faster than the larger fruiting varieties, but this year, in our selection of tomato plants we are including “Orange Banana”. This mango-like plum tomato, with sweet, firm not pappy flesh, has become a favourite in our heritage tomato mix.
I also recommend the mini-leaved “Greek Basil”, available through July and August. Last year I had a pot on my kitchen windowsill from August right up until Christmas. Possibly the most useful pot I’ve ever had, taking just a few small leaves here and there to add a fresh herby fragrance omelettes and cheese on toast and many other plates.
If you are considering investing in a perennial for cutting, then Scabiosa Caucasica was one of our favourites in the Market Garden last season, blooming from June until November.”