Monday, 30 May 2011

Salad days in Clapton

Thanks to the unseasonaly warm spring, my edible balcony's coming along nicely. Bit too nicely, perhaps.

It's not even June yet and I'm already overrun with salad - trays of rocket, spinach, mizuma and cornsalad. It's all going woody and about to bolt.

Which is something of a revelation, given it's still May (just...), and my northeast-facing balcony gets limited sun (from dawn till about 10am), and it can get gusty up there.

On the recommendation balcony gardener extraordinaire Alex Mitchell, author of a terrrific book The Edible Balcony, I've been more thoughtful about the varieties I've planted this year.

I've got miniature carrots on the go in terracotta pots, and various hardy types of chard. The beetroot didn't amount to much - I ate the leaves before they could develop, and the kale shows signs of cropping nicely in its pots, despite the shade.

To attract bees, I've grown wildflowers from mixed seed (packets picked up from the wonderful Garden Museum in Lambeth), and bought copious alliums and silver lavender from nurseries and plant fairs. Even if the bees don't drop by, the display looks great from the kitchen sink.

At Alex's suggestion, I've gone for smaller varieties of tomatoes. We don't want a repeat of last year's bounteous but unriped crop; there's only so much green chutney you can give away as gifts. So Big Boy and Gardener's Delight make way for Supersweet 100s and Totem, bought from the Sunday farmer's market on Chapel Market, Islington.

Despite the limited sun, I've also gone in for strawberries - the two Cambridge Favourites already have a handful of fruit on each. At Alex's suggestion, I've also invested in a couple of fruit trees. The Victoria plum has so far failed to flower, but seems happy enough in its pot. The thornless loganberry is faring far better, with its great hairy fruits plumping up nicely.

Just wait till I get the wormery up and running - the vermiculture will give everything a turbo-boost. Bring on a summer of mellow fruitfulness!

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