Panicking about unplanted pumpkins and runner beans with nowhere to run is an annual event in my kitchen garden. Spring-sown plants scream to be released from their pots and I can almost hear the sighs of relief every time I pop one of these poor, desperate specimens into the soil. Although everything needs to be done yesterday and the weeds will be back tomorrow, I am always filled with hope at this time of year because (with the exception of a breakout of peach leaf curl and the ongoing battle with aphids) things have yet to go catastrophically wrong in the kitchen garden.
|The prettiest stage of a medlar|
There were so many pollinators about in spring that I decided not to flutter around the fruit trees with my pollinating paintbrush pretending to be a bee. Unsurprisingly, the pollinators have done a fine job. Tiny embryonic fruits cluster on the branches of trees. They have yet to suffer the rigours of June drop, wasps and scab, so for the next week or two I shall remain optimistic that this autumn will be fuelled by wall-to-wall pies and crumbles.
|Hope of fruit crumble, custard and cream|
The hens are clearly heeding the slug and snail warning this year as their pest patrols have been ruthless. Nothing gets in their way. Last week they uprooted part of a mirabelle hedge, three asparagus plants and picked every last one of the developing gooseberries. That's one crumble I won't be enjoying this summer.
|Hope of summer pudding|
Images of pumpkin plants being released from the prison of their pots and spreading their roots gratefully (if indeed pumpkins feel gratitude) into delicious soil only to be dragged from their moorings by an over-exuberant hen, have led me to protect all of my crops from the chickens and rethink the whole slug control issue.
|Ever hopeful Hyacinth Hen|
Fortunately my family are squirrels. That is not to say that they spend their days clinging valiantly to bird feeders and chewing on the little plastic perches, but they could quite happily live off seeds and nuts - particularly pistachios. This is great news in light of the slug and snail invasion forecast. I buy unsalted pistachios and it makes my family happy. I take the shells, scatter them around the brassicas and the slugs and snails do a runner elsewhere (hopefully into the path of a peckish hen). It takes a lot of pistachios to mulch a broccoli bed, then again, if it were left to the chickens, the broccoli would be long gone.
|Hope of pumpkin pie|
While tomatoes and potatoes have yet to be blighted and courgette leaves exhibit no sign of mildew, we can remain optimistic for a bumper harvest. Early summer is a time for hope: hope that we won't be pulling pointless micro-celeriac again (what on earth happened to the celeriac last year?); hope that 2016 will be the year of the great butternut glut; and on a personal note, hope that my family's passion for pistachios will never wane.