Purple sprouting broccoli under netting. Picture by Roseanna Wright.
PRODUCE can be a bit thin in the ground at this time of year — but there are a few crops that reliably come up with the goods.
One is purple sprouting broccoli and the new strains mean there are varieties that can crop all through the year, which is fantastic because it is a vegetable of great taste and texture.
However, make certain broccoli and curly kale — in fact, all the brassicas — are netted to prevent pigeons stripping the crop bare.
I couldn’t bear to look at the allotment during the weeks of winter rain but when I could face it I found the netting had blown off and the pigeons were too fat to fly.
The good thing is that it was a few weeks before cropping and the plant will regenerate, which it has under its safe new wrapping.
Thompson and Morgan has the brassica oleracea collection of three packets for a shade under £6.
The collection comprises one packet each of the following varieties:
Purple sprouting broccoli summer purple (harvest from August to October) — British bred for good heat tolerance making an ideal variety for summer cropping.
Broccoli apollo (harvest from June to November) — a cross between selections of sprouting broccoli and kailaan (Chinese kale) to give deliciously flavoured, soft and tender, nutrient-rich stems and flower buds. The main or central head must be cut to encourage plenty of side-shoots.
Choice selection (harvest from December to May) — a choice mix of three British-bred purple sprouting broccoli varieties, Red Admiral F1 hybrid, Rudolph and Cardinal.
Companion planting — try growing broccoli with nasturtiums, to draw cabbage white butterflies away from your crop, and mint to help deter flea beetles.
Wonderful weather for weeds
SPRING is springing and the weeds are certainly doing that.
Andrea Richter e-mailed me about ranunculus ficaria, a cheery little yellow-flowered plant, which has appeared all over her Park Road garden in Cowes, spurred on by the earlier wet conditions.
Andrea wonders whether the little troublesome rhizomes are managing to survive through the heat of composting.
"I cleared my garden last year and dutifully went to my local tip to get my compost to mulch over every bed in my large garden.
"This year the ranunculus seems to have appeared in the top few inches of soil.
"I firmly believe they are living through the heat of the biomass and I suppose this is a word of warning to all compost users to be wary of this."
I’d be interested to hear from the compost makers on this one.
Add bite to your salads
IN THE greenhouse I’ve now employed the untidy technique of allowing a particular plant to run to seed.
It looks messy but allowing a few rocket plants, which were themselves self-seeded to run to seed over winter, means I will have a delicious crop of rocket, which adds bite to any salad, good and early.
It is cropping up all over the greenhouse and will probably be ready to start having a few leaves pinched off it in a couple of weeks’ time.
It is tender, lovely, tasty and good for you too.
Don’t let mice feast on your broad beans
GOSH, I thought, good old Unwins.
A 'best before’ 2015 packet of seed was the same £2.49 price as 2012. You don’t see that very often.
But closer examination showed there to be 40 seeds in the new packet compared with 100 in the old.
The seed now being a more than twice as expensive commodity, I’ve employed the old mice-beating technique of not planting directly in the ground.
Mice love broad beans when they have just germinated, eating the newly germinated nutrient-rich shoot with relish.
Even in the greenhouse the agile little pests will easily scale staging to get at them.
So, what to do? Up-end a large pot or a fertiliser tub and put the tray on that.
Even Houdini mouse won’t be able to get out of, or rather into, that.
Once the broad beans have reached a good height, they can be transplanted into the plot because the mice have no interest in the greenery.
Gardening Galore returns
ONCE again Rookley Village Association is running its hugely popular — and free — Gardening Galore event.
This year it will take place on Sunday, May 4, between 10am and 3pm.
With a wide variety of gardening stalls — from growers, nurseries, garden centres and suppliers of tools, appliances, and gardening accessories — it is easy to understand why it is so eagerly anticipated every year, firmly established in the Island’s horticultural calendar.
Taking place at Rookley Village Hall and Sports Field, in Highwood Lane, there are also the bonuses of free adjacent parking and the knowledge the event supports the community facilities and local traders too.
This year the organisers are lucky enough to have booked Paul Sivell to give demonstrations of his wood sculpting at a variety of times throughout the day.
Donations will go to The Blue Lamp Trust’s Bobby’s Scheme to assist its work in the local area.
And, don’t forget, by popular demand, a second opportunity to see what all your favourite Island growers and suppliers have to offer comes on Sunday, June 8, in the shape of Gardening Galore Revisited.