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This month in the garden - 2021

May in the Garden

The garden is very grateful for last month's April showers as we move towards another summer. If your vegetable seedlings were discouraged by the cold spell and decided to stop growing, they will catch up as temperatures start to rise so get them in the ground now. Watermelons, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins can be direct sown but do watch out for slugs and snails. They find it much easier to move around while the ground is still damp. Keep an eye on your sprouting sweet potatoes – keep the water in the glass topped up and take the slips off when they get to a length of about 30cm. Some people pot them up and plant them out when they have developed a bit of root. I just stick them straight into the ground. Leave the sweet potato in the glass of water and it will put out more shoots for a long time.

Continue with successional sowing of French beans, Asian beans and runner beans for a continuous harvest. Okra and corn can also be direct sown.

If you are planning to save some of your own seeds this year, put a bit of thought into planning your garden. Remember that some crops need to stay in the ground way past harvest time for seed saving and will occupy space in the garden for a lot longer - kale, carrots and lettuce for example. Cucumbers will cross with other cucumbers but not with melons. Watermelons cross with other other watermelons but not with melons. To save good seeds from melons and cucumbers, let a few fruits go well past the ripe edible stage and take the seeds from them. Saving seeds from pumpkins can be confusing – many pumpkins belong to the group cucurbita pepo where courgettes also belong. They will cross pollinate very easily. The three other main groups of pumpkin are cucurbita moschata, which includes the butternut squashes, cucurbita maxima which includes a lot of big pumpkins and cucurbita mixta which includes the hopi and cushaw types. All of these types will cross pollinate among themselves but not with the other three. You can grow four different varieties in one garden and have confidence that your seeds will all be pure. SEEeD, our local seed bank, runs monthly seed saving workshops, and learning how to identify which family your pumpkins belong to and how to hand pollinate to ensure seed purity if you are growing more than one variety in a family, are some of the topics we will cover over the summer. Get in touch and come to one of our workshops.

Many of us that grow organic food are motivated by the desire to know exactly what we are putting into our bodies through the food we eat. I personally strive to avoid Genetically Modified foods. The European Union classifies GM foods as “new foods” along with irradiated foods and they are subject to the most stringent regulation in the world being assessed for sale under the criteria of “safety”, “freedom of choice”, “labelling” and “traceability”. In the EU any foods with a GM content greater than 0.9% must be labelled as GM as a tool for the EU to protect consumers and the environment. It astonishes me therefore that the same stringent standards are not being applied to the new corona virus experimental vaccines as we are being asked to mainline genetically modified organisms directly into our bloodstreams. Just as the food we eat is a personal choice, so are any medical interventions. Each and every one of us should assess the information we have available and make our own choices both about the food we eat and the medications we take.

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