The pleasure of a fresh crop of veg and fruit for meals

One of summer’s gardening pleasures is making a fresh vegetable or fruit contribution to the daily meals.

Thursday, 11th July 2019, 2:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th July 2019, 3:00 pm
Strawberry 'sweetheart' is ready.

This can be large or small, a one-off or continuous supply, depending on the growing space available. If you’re interested don’t allow the lack of garden space put you off, there`s a wide range of edibles that lend themselves to container-growing.

The most abundant cropping period is gaining momentum now and will continue until late autumn. Freshly picked fruit for breakfast is a dream that becomes reality when you’ve a strawberry patch or grow a few plants in tower pots. Last week the lady of the house was out picking the early ripening strawberry ‘Sweetheart’ whilst I dug the first boiling of early potatoes. These two landmark crops can open the door to serious summer harvesting.

We’ve started picking greenhouse tomatoes and the plants need watering daily. They will grow outdoors in a sunny spot. The raspberry bed has literally buzzed with activity for weeks, confirming this plant’s place in the top ten of bee attractants. It continues as the clucking blackbirds alert us to the first fruits ripening. Our red and golden varieties carry us through to deepest autumn.

Gooseberries grown in cordon, fan or espalier fashion generally stay mildew-free, thanks to the flow of air. Training the bush in goblet form with main branches radiating out from a central base, has the same beneficial effect. Create the outline shape with a framework of short canes that strong leading stems can be tied to. The fruits on ours are swelling rapidly and could be put to culinary use now if thinning-out was required. Other soft fruit types in this garden will soon be on the menu and we`ll be spoiled for choice. However, nothing is wasted. Surplus goes in the freezer.

The produce from three courgette plants is more than enough to keep an average family going all summer, but we’ve ended up with six that were planted rather than waste them. Now that they`re getting into productive mode the challenge is to keep picking otherwise they quickly become giant marrows. There`s no such problem with peas and assorted types of bean. They are all picked at their peak for kitchen or cold storage.

Far from claiming a state of self-sufficiency in the garden, we do manage to have an element of home-grown produce available most months of the year. Even on the coldest of winter days there`s a mature vegetable to be harvested fresh from the outdoor beds.

All it takes is a little planning to maintain momentum. Leeks, cabbages, sprouts and broccoli, should be developing in the garden now with short, colder days in mind.

Leaf lettuce, grown on a cut and come again basis, ensures there`s always a fresh supply, but make sure it has plenty of water otherwise the leaves become bitter. `Salad Bowl` and `Lollo Rossa` are such reliable varieties that they`re top of the seed list, and we keep spare packets to hand for successional sowings. There`s also a spicy mixed` variety that adds a little interest to salads. Autumn sowing in the cold greenhouse border secures a supply from December to March, then outdoor growing takes over.