June 2016: Notes from the Garden Shed

I just happened to be writing this on the longest day of the year when the globe starts to tip away from the sun taking us poor residents at 51 degrees north away from the warmth.

But this annual cycle also affects plants. If you sow lettuce and other vegetables now they know they’ve not long before the growing season ends and tend to ‘bolt’ (that is to rush to flower and set seeds) this unhappily makes tender leaves tough and inedible – not good in a salad!

But riding to the rescue are all the short-day vegetables, mostly from the orient, like Mizuna, Mubuna, Mustard and Pak Choi. These will happily flourish as the days shorten. Also Radish varieties like Chinese Rose and Black Spanish do well at this time of the year. Of course main crop vegetables continue to put on grow to cope with the coming winter. Sorry! gardeners do have to think about the next season!

Ruby Pak Choi

Ruby Pak Choi

      Mizuna Dark Purple

      Mizuna Dark Purple

I’ve also been watching insects pollinating various flowers – I can’t think of a more evocative sound than that of a Bumblebee doing the business inside a Foxglove flower – wonderful! Bye the bye the Bumblebee Trust has chosen the Tree bumblebee as their Bumblebee of the month – very distinctive with a ginger or brown thorax, a black abdomen and a white tail. This species is becoming an increasingly common urban bee so every chance to see one in London.

 
Bumblebee Entering Foxglove Flower

Bumblebee Entering Foxglove Flower

 

I’ve also been amused watching Bees that can’t be bothered to play the plants game and rather than entering the flower at the proper opening (so as to deliver and get brushed with pollen) bypass all that
pollination equipment and bite a hole in the side of the flower to get straight to the goodies the nectar sacks. You can clearly see these holes in the picture of the Comfrey flowers. In the Skip garden the Blackcurrant Sage flowers (in the Orchard Skip) also suffer the same fate. I suppose these plants will have to do a redesign or become self-pollinating.

Happy short day vegetable sowing!

Tree Bumblebee

Tree Bumblebee