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FROM THE KITCHEN GARDEN: The "Hungry Gap" is over at last

There have been bits and pieces to harvest right through the spring and into early summer, but that period has rightly been termed the "hungry gap" for as long as anyone can remember…and it had real meaning when food wasn't imported from warmer climes.

However, early July brings the first copious proof of earlier efforts, which means we are now beginning to harvest the first potatoes, onions, garlic, calabrese, peas and strawberries amongst others.

And from the polytunnel, whilst the first cucumbers and tomatoes are shyly coming on stream, there's already plenty of French beans and basil.

In the orchard areas, both the old pears and the recently planted apples seem to have set plenty of fruit: "Fruitlets" that the trees don't feel able to take to maturity are let go during the "June drop".

A drought can cause a seriously heavy June drop, but in most years it just means that the fruits that are left will be bigger and so easier to harvest and store.

July is the first chance we get in the summer to have a proper look at the fruit trees – too busy planting and weeding vegetable crops until then.

I like to do as much pruning in July as possible, as this tends to stimulate fruit bud production better than winter pruning, which just encourages lots of regrowth.

Flowers play their part

The newspapers reported last week that the Royal Parks in London are going to have demonstration beds of vegetables to show off their decorative credentials additionally to their obvious nutritional qualities.

I guess that means we might see this in South Yorkshire parks next year – done well it could be quite inspirational.

Looking from the perspective of a vegetable grower, it's also important to acknowledge the role that inedible, flowering plants have.

We break up the rows of vegetables at Wortley with flowers that achieve a number of benefits for us.

For example: Shasta daisies attract hoverflies, whose larvae gobble up greenfly.

Clary sage (pictured) and other strongly scented plants put off pests that detect their victim crop by smell.

Sunflowers provide food for birds at the end of the summer, many of whom also eat pest insects when they are around.

Calendula, nasturtium and rose are examples of flowers that are great in salads.

Rudbeckia, cornflower and corncockle look beautiful and so lift the spirits.

Additionally, many vegetable plants, if allowed to flower (with the aim of collecting seed for next season) also look very beautiful and in some notable cases, such as carrot and onion, also provide valuable nectar for hoverflies and bees respectively.

The very first gardeners probably made little or no distinction between ornamental and productive gardens, and maybe we are seeing a little convergence of these disciplines at the moment – it's up to us.

To see more pictures of the garden, and find out about our open days this summer, please check out our website at www.organickitchengarden.co.uk

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