‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out' by David Patch of RV Roger Ltd
Posted on 7th June 2017 at 08:13
This old English proverb, dating back to the early 1700’s, is often quoted amongst gardeners.
The original meaning seems to be not to cast off winter clothes until the month of May has finished, but gardeners often take it to not put out any tender plants until early June. Sensible advice around our neck of the woods, as we can still have night time frosts at this time of year which would kill many bedding plants, as well as courgettes, French beans, tomatoes, etc.
The weather this Spring has actually been exceptionally warm and dry, and night time temperatures have been reasonably high. The problem has mainly been the lack of rainfall – any newly planted trees and shrubs needed regular watering and we have seen a lot of mildew issues on gooseberries, which is a sure sign that they are dry at the roots. The weather in past two days has taken a decided turn for the worse – wet and windy for the foreseeable – which is not good if you were planning a barbecue, but is very welcome in the garden. The soil is lovely and warm, night temperatures are good, and now the ground is full of moisture plants (and lawns!) will be growing night and day.
Following on from the highly successful Malton Food Festival the other weekend, I thought that this might be the time to look at some of the more unusual plants you can grow and eat, in particular crops which can be grown in containers.
Pea shoots have become very popular in the past couple of years as a salad ingredient and can be expensive if bought in the shops. They are extremely easy to grow at home, and do very well in containers if you are limited for space. Any pea variety will be fine, but there is a new variety called ‘Serge’ specifically bred to provide an abundance of fresh delicious shoots. We’ve had a pot planted up in our greenhouse here at the nursery for a couple of months and it has done really well – some days it has been the only part of my 5 a day!
Courgette plants can go outside now – don’t be tempted to plant too many, as you will undoubtedly have a glut later in the summer. The flowers are delicious, especially when dipped in a tempura batter and lightly fried, and almost impossible to buy as they have a short shelf life. Again, these can be planted in a large pot if you don’t have space in the garden, in particular a variety called ‘Bush Baby’ - keep well fed and watered and they will produce plenty of fruit for you.
Lettuce and other salad leaves such as spinach and rocket do well in pots or grow bags, but an unusual vegetable I’d urge you to try is ‘Cima di rapa’. Literally translated as ‘turnip tops’, this Italian delicacy is actually a member of the sprouting broccoli family, but much quicker to harvest. Sow the seeds in a large pot or grow bag, and you can harvest the young leaves as a cut and come again salad, or leave for two months and you will have a great crop of tiny sprouting broccoli heads. If you cut the tops off, they will reshoot several times. Fry in olive oil with a little garlic and a squeeze of lemon – fantastic!
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