Dear Fellow Gardeners,
Everyone with a garden is in a lucky position. At least we have some escape from this crazy situation. Maybe one good thing that may come out of this is that we may become more connected with nature. I don’t know if we just notice nature more because we are not as busy or if nature is making a quick comeback with less pollution and traffic.. Last month we saw an otter with a fish in its mouth, increasing numbers of bees, especially bumblebees. We watch birds building their nests, we witnessed a stand-off of 4 bullying seagulls with a heron, a cormorant and a rook each one standing on a rock in close proximity staring at each other. I must admit I wasn’t a fan of the bullying seagulls flying in on a day trip from the sea and causing a raucous havoc. Fortunately they left after the day and it’s become more peaceful again.
Get dirty in the garden
One of the drawbacks or dangers of the current hygiene measures and sterilisation, handwashing etc – which is of course absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the corona virus – there is a danger that our immune systems will be weakened. An immune system only builds up with exposure to small amounts of pathogens. After cocooning and social distancing our immune system will be weaker and this can pose some dangers.
So while it is essential to follow all the guidelines for Covid 19, I believe it is important not to get too obsessed about sterilisation in our own homes. What I mean is – please get dirty in the garden. My two children were out in the garden all day yesterday. They built an outdoor cooker, lit a fire and roasted vegetables wrapped in tinfoil and mud (that was his idea) which actually tasted delicious – especially the parsnip. They were dirty from morning to evening.
I mentioned before about the importance of soil in many aspects – especially the fact that there is serotonin in some soil-living bacteria and this can be absorbed through the skin as well as by eating small amounts of soil (eg biting into a freshly pulled dirty carrot).
Did you know there is even an expression of this – a soil eater is called a “Geophage”. Apparently this happened in many societies throughout centuries and now there is even evidence that eating small quantities of good soil may improve the gut microbiome. Sorry about this diversion – I know this is taking it too far ………… I was even going to talk about being a soil gourmet or have soil testing sessions but I better leave it at that.
Apart from gardening and getting dirty there is another way of building our immune system is eating a wild food soup. I make that once a week and get better at it every time. In one of my previous newsletters I mentioned the lecture of Dr. Christine Jones. One snippet stood out – “we should eat over 30 food plants per week to get the required diversity for a healthy gut microbiome”.
So once a week I go around the garden and woodland and collect as many wild food plants, herbs, salads and some vegetables. This week it was the following leaves: dandelion, buckler-leaved sorrel, nettles, plantain, silverweed, fennel, daisy, borage (leaves and flowers), dill, coriander, sage, parsley, chives, rosemary, lemon balm, wild cabbage (Irish loose-leaved cabbage), beetroot leaves, evening primrose, plenty of overgrown and overwintered oriental salad leaves like mizuna, rocket, perpetual spinach and chard.
Fry an onion, some ginger and two garlic cloves and after a while add one finely chopped potato and fry gently for a while then add water to fill the pan half full, add a vegetable stock cube, salt and pepper, then add your wild food mix (no need to chop). Let it simmer for 40 minutes and then blend it. Season to taste.
It really makes you feel good.
Gardening Jobs in May
In the first half of May you can sow early beetroot, early carrots, parsnips, perpetual spinach, annual spinach, chard, radish, turnip, peas and runner beans directly into the ground.
Towards the end of the month you can sow maincrop carrots and beetroot and any crops you didn’t manage to sow at the beginning of the month.
In May you can still sow the following vegetables into modular trays: winter cabbages, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, lettuce, scallions, spinach and chard.
If you haven’t sown courgettes, pumpkins, squash, runner beans and sweetcorn yet you can still do so at the first half of the month.
Towards the end of the month you can sow Florence fennel and Chinese cabbage.
You can plant out the crops you sowed in the previous month: the first batch of leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kohlrabi, rocket, swede, turnip, lettuce, perpetual spinach, chard, annual spinach and scallions.
Towards the end of the month you may be able to harvest some oriental salads, radish, turnips and annual spinach.
Don’t forget to keep a check on your plants especially the seedlings outside. This is the time when they are most vulnerable to a slug attack. You also need to be wary of leatherjackets, the larva of the daddy-longlegs. They can be a terror during this month especially on newly planted lettuce. If a small lettuce suddenly dies, itwas probably eaten by a leatherjacket. They actually just bite through the stem of the young plants. If you don’t find the culprit in the soil it will move on to the next plant.
If you had carrot root fly in previous years it is nearly essential that you cover the early sown carrots with a bionet.
May is the most exciting month in your tunnel or greenhouse. This is the time to plant out your summer crops – your tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and basil.
Take good care of them and give them a fabulous soil and they will reward you with a bounty of delicious sun-ripened fruit. Once the busy spell of planting is over you can start to relax again.
More information on www.greenvegetableseeds.com