I love June in the garden! A lot of the stress of being a vegetable grower often subsides by June (as long as the weather has been fairly kind throughout Spring), and most of the first lot of planting is in so the garden is full and looking great. We have had a great spring, and as long as you have access to water it has been good growing weather (especially the latter part of May). We started to replace early crops with second plantings, for example coriander went in where radish were previously, kohl rabi was direct sown in another radish bed that had been all harvested, and various salad leaves have been replaced with later successions of leaves.
It is good to continue to be prepared to replace old crops as soon as you can with new crops, and sowing into trays first allows a little extra time to prepare the beds before planting. Our favourite method of clearing old crops is by mowing them down and then laying down plastic on top (using sandbags to hold it down)—it works especially well with clear plastic during hot weather as it heats up to kill off any weeds and helps to breakdown the mowed crop quickly. This method, called solarization, is a great technique to create stale seed beds too. If you are sowing direct crops such as carrots it is good to have a clean, weed free bed to sow into, and allowing the first flush of weeds to germinate and killing them off is a good way of doing this.
The process for creating a stale seed bed is to rake a bed to a good tilth, water it and allow the weeds to germinate, then cover with clear plastic during hot weather and these weeds will be burnt off rapidly—sometimes in a matter of a few hours if especially hot. In cooler weather conditions black plastic can be used and left for a couple of weeks before the weeds are killed off. Whichever technique you use you can then sow directly into the tilth and be sure that the first flush of weeds have already germinated so your crop will be much more weed free. An add on technique to this is to flame weed the carrots about 5 days after sowing (just before they start to emerge). This kills off any extra weed seedlings that germinate in this time.
We also use this technique to kill off green manures that we have sown before planting a crop. We sowed a mix of black oats, sunflowers, phacelia, buckwheat, crimson and sweet clovers at the end of April to cover the soil on beds that we were not going to plant up until July. These are now growing really well and will add organic matter to the soil as well as protect it from any erosion caused by wind and rain. They will be mowed off and covered with plastic to break down before planting a crop. This use of quick, thickly sown green manures is another good technique of weed control as the green manure crowds out weed seedlings so they cannot grow and seed causing a problem for future crops.
We like to keep all of the beds pretty weed free around this time of year especially, using a variety of different techniques and tools. The main tools that we use are hoes—usually wheel hoes for the paths and collinear or push-pull hoes for along the rows. We have also just started using a great spring tine rake which can be dragged right over the crop and does a wonderful job of knocking back the very young weed seedlings. The most important part of weed control is to start hoeing before you can see the weeds! We try to hoe about a week after planting a new crop, even if there are hardly any weeds in the bed. Often there are weed seeds germinating just beneath the soil surface and by hoeing them lightly on a sunny, breezy day these will be disturbed and soon die off. We then aim to repeat the hoeing about a week to 10 days later. Most crops then grow big enough to shade out any further weeds from germinating or growing to any size that will effect the growth of the crop.
We are running a Market Gardening Course as well as Salad Growing and Seed Saving courses at Trill Farm later this year where you can learn more about the techniques that we use to run the market garden at Trill Farm. Check out www.trillfarmgarden.co.uk/courses.html for more details on the courses and to book.
WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: purple sprouting broccoli & January King type winter cabbage (early this month), french beans, chard, beetroot, carrots, basil, late cucumbers, kale, fennel, salad leaves — summer purslane, buckshorn plantain, salad burnet, lettuce, chicory (Treviso and Palla Rossa varieties early in the month, other varieties later), endive, mustards and rocket (mesh to keep flea beetle off), goosefoot, anise hyssop, amaranth, orache, nasturtiums.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
OUTSIDE: Dwarf french beans, beetroot, squash and corn (if not already done), lettuce and salads, squash, runner beans, kale, chard, autumn cabbage
INSIDE: climbing french beans, cucumbers, basil, salads — goosefoot, summer purslane
OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH: Undersow squash with a mix of red and white clovers, yellow trefoil, and other cornfield wildflowers — this will help to fix nitrogen, but more importantly cover the soil and provide organic matter and living roots for soil organisms to benefit from.