First Colours

It’s that time in the growing calendar when everything seems to be planted and growing. The months of fretting about whether seedlings are going to survive are gone and instead you can enjoy watching actual fruit and veg start to appear.

That also means the first vibrant colours start to light up among all the greenery. The Marshmellow strawberries are coming in thick and fast now and they’re pretty delicious. I’m quite glad that they don’t all ripen at once: picking one or two each time you walk past is preferable to having a big bowlful then no more for weeks.

Marshmellow strawberries coming in thick and fast

Likewise, the gooseberries are starting to colour up. This bush is in a shady spot but does well and seems to have happily escaped the destructive sawfly which has ravaged it on occasions in the past. As they turn purple they change from tart to sweet-tasting and are quite edible straight away, not needing any cooking to take the edge off.

Gooseberries starting to get their colour

Nearby the blueberries are fattening up, thanks to lots of watering and occasional targeted soft fruit feed. They’re a little way off going purple yet, but they’re nice and big. And there are hundreds and hundreds of them, spread across two bushes. I got a yoghurt making kit recently, so am planning a bonanza of blueberry yoghurt.

Hundreds of blueberries fattening up

Not edible but equally colourful are the flowers on the mangetout plants. This is an old French variety called Carouby de Maussane and promises to be very prolific. The flowers start blue and then turn pink and purple, each to be followed by a tasty mangetout. I’ve tried the first few and they’re delicious.

Enchanting mangetout flowers

In the greenhouse tents there’s more purpleness going on with some Genovese purple basil. I like to grow several varieties of basil and this year it’s standard sweet basil, the purple one and on the right below is Thai basil, which has a slight licorice flavour.

Three types of basil, with pointy-leaved Thai basil on the right

Accompanying them in the tents are lots of chilli and sweet pepper plants. For sweet peppers I’m growing Astor and Thor and for chillis it’s Heatwave (sounds promising), Padron (love eating them the Spanish way, fried and slaked with rock salt) and Hungarian Hot Wax. Almost were carefully started from seed in the heated propagators back in February and are now about a foot tall with flowers buds coming appearing.

I’m always nervous about whether seeds will germinate, especially hot chilli seeds which can be temperamental. So early in the year I hedged my bets by ordering a selection of three chilli plants from Fothergill’s. To be honest I’d forgotten about them until they arrived this week: one Fuego, one Apache and one Hungarian Hot Wax. Just to make me feel inadequate, the bought Apache plant is the only one with a chilli on it so far, but the home-reared ones are showing flowers so won’t be far behind.

Chilli and sweet pepper plants. It gets hot in this greenhouse, which is perfect conditions for them.

There are lots of flowers too on the tomato plants. Below are several Roma and Romello plants in one of the raised beds. They’re both bush varieties and won’t grow tall, like the Tomatoberry variety which are growing nearby. The Romello at the front has put out lots and lots of flowers so I’m quite hopeful about that one. It’s a little while before tiny tomatoes will appear but it looks like there’ll be lots of them come the time.

Lots of flowers on this Romello tomato bush

One thing that worked really well this year was turning a small fan onto the tomato seedlings while they were small and still indoors. I’d read that it helps strengthen them and boy did it work. By the time they were a few inches high the plants had thick, strong stems, unlike the spindly things I’ve sometimes grown in the past. They looked every bit as robust as the plug plants you get from the suppliers. The fan thing is one of the best/most effective gardening tips I’ve ever picked up in ten years of growing vegetables.

Elsewhere outside, the first big yellow courgette flower appeared this week, with a courgette behind it, and lots of little ones hiding away too. I’ve three plants on the go, the Defender variety and am looking forward to eating the courgettes and the stuffed flowers too.

First courgette and flower

Nearby there are lots of baby cucumbers appearing behind similarly yellow flowers. I’m growing these in a big pot, which worked well last year. This is a variety called Merlin and the plant purports to grow two metres high ..scary!

Tiny cucumbers appearing, just an inch or two long for now.

Finally for now the potato bed is looking all in order. One part is occupied by the variety called International Kidney, more famously known as Jersey Royals. It’ll be great to taste those. There’s also a maincrop called Vales Sovereign, which is a first timer for me and old favourite Charlotte.

Potatoes and garlic in raised bed

They’re accompanies by a couple of bunches of garlic plants, a variety called Rose Wight, which are coming towards maturity. I can see some big purple-skinned bulbs poking above the soil so they look promising. There’s so much appeal to roasting some of those big potatoes with a few cloves of that garlic and some sprigs of rosemary from the herb bed. Damn I love this hobby 🙂

One comment

  1. Gooseberries look interesting. I tried to grow them only because I found them in the nursery during bare root season. I had no idea what they are, or what to do with them.They got roasted by the fire, and then mysteriously died. I will try them again, even though I do not know what they are for.

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