Summer is here and we’ve been busy getting our new Edible Gardening Project polytunnel planted for a bumper crop in autumn and winter.
The project has come along leaps and bounds in the last few months and our volunteers have been hard at work in the polytunnel putting in timber edges for the raised beds. Just 15cm high, they will help keep a defined pathway through the tunnel protecting the soil from becoming compacted. The team has filled the beds with fabulous compost produced here at the Botanics. The mixture of well-rotted horse manure and composted garden waste results in a beautiful crumbly medium full of the nutrients required by our crop to flourish.
We start planting this week, sowing a variety of winter greens and salads including spring onions, lettuce and winter cress. We’ll also be trying out oriental varieties, including pak choi and Chinese cabbage, I’m already looking forward to them stir-fried with spicy chilli, garlic and ginger.
Christmas potatoes are also on the menu. Late August is the best time to plant these in order to get a crop in time and our chosen variety, Pentland Javelin, are going in this week. The potatoes do not need chitting like earlier varieties. Chitting involves allowing the potatoes to start forming strong shoots before you plant them by sitting them in a tray (egg cartons are perfect) and removing all but three or four of the emerging sprouts, or eyes. However, the ground is nice and warm at this time of year so the potatoes do not need the extra boost that chitting provides.
All the crops I’ve mentioned are suitable for growing outside, although they will benefit from protection of some kind. The potatoes may need horticultural fleece to protect the growing tips from any early frosts and the greens will come along faster if you use a cloche – an old plastic bottle cut in half will do the trick nicely.
Jenny Foulkes is Edible Gardening project manager at the Botanics. The project is jointly run with the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. www.rbge.org.uk/ediblegardening.