Category Archives: Seasonal

Harvest Time!

Young woman peeling back husks from harvested Sweetcorn - © GAP Photos

Young woman peeling back husks from harvested Sweetcorn – © GAP Photos

Sweetcorn is delicious eaten straight from the cob, and the fresher the cob, the sweeter the taste. So, if you have the room, it is a worthwhile candidate in a vegetable garden. Late summer to early autumn is prime harvest time for sweetcorn.

If you have not harvested fresh sweetcorn before, it may be a little confusing at first. With the cobs wrapped up and hidden from view in their papery husks, the tall statuesque plants, with their arching leaves and upright tassels can look a bit spindly and alien. Here are a few tips for harvesting sweetcorn.

1. Know when to harvest

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn 'Minipop' F1 Hybrid - Zea mays var. rugosa - © GAP Photos

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ F1 Hybrid – Zea mays var. rugosa – © GAP Photos

When a cob is ready to be harvested, the silk at the top of the husks will have dried and turned brown. You should also be able to feel the full bulk of the cob inside the husk.
2. To be extra sure the cob is ripe, pull back the leaves a little way to expose the kernels below.

Testing sweetcorn for ripeness by piercing kernel with fingernail - © GAP Photos/Sarah Cuttle

Testing sweetcorn for ripeness by piercing kernel with fingernail – © GAP Photos/Sarah Cuttle

If you pierce the kernels with a fingernail, is the sap that comes off it milky or watery? If it is milky, the cob is ripe and ready for harvest. If it is watery, the cob needs some more time, so just wrap the cob back up and leave it for a few more days before you harvest.

2. Removing the cob from the plant

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn 'Minipop' F1 Hybrid - Zea mays var. rugosa - GAP Photos

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ F1 Hybrid – Zea mays var. rugosa – GAP Photos

If the cob is ripe and ready, remove it from the plant by pulling the cob down towards the ground and away from the stem. The cob should break off at the base. Try to do this firmly and gently so you don’t damage the stem as you may have other corn cobs still ripening on the same plant.

3. Get cooking!

Peeling back husk of Sweetcorn 'Minipop' F1 Hybrid - Zea mays var. rugosa, revealing rows of kernels - © GAP Photos

Peeling back husk of Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ F1 Hybrid – Zea mays var. rugosa, revealing rows of kernels – © GAP Photos

The sooner the sweetcorn is eaten after harvesting, the sweeter it will be. If you are growing sweetcorn in your garden rather than an allotment, then harvest them as soon as you are ready to eat them. In fact, if possible, get the water bubbling as you rip away the leaves so they can be popped straight in!

Bon Appétit

5 Materials to Mulch Your Garden With This Summer

Applying a mulch to garden beds and borders is generally a great habit to get into, and is beneficial at most times in the year. It helps to keep moisture and goodness in the soil, keeps plant’s roots warm and suppresses weeds. Early summer is a great time to mulch, reducing the need to water as regularly as normal when the heat arrives. However, you can be creative with what you use to mulch, rather than traditional manure or bark chippings. Below are five environmentally-friendly materials that you can use to protect your plants.

Garden compost

Mulching the base of a cut back Agapanthus with natural garden compost - © GAP Photos

Mulching the base of a cut back Agapanthus with natural garden compost – © GAP Photos

Mulching with home-made garden compost is a fantastic way of giving the soil surrounding your plants a nutrient boost, as well as reusing your garden waste.

Marbles

Carex in red seaside bucket with mulch of marbles - © GAP Photos/Julia Boulton

Carex in red seaside bucket with mulch of marbles – © GAP Photos/Julia Boulton

Why not make your mulching decorative and include glass pebbles or marbles? These materials are probably better suited to mulching plants in containers, so they can all be kept together and do not end up getting lost around the garden.

Grass Cuttings

Solanum tuberosum 'Epicure' - Applying grass clippings as a mulch to earthed up organic Potatoes - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Solanum tuberosum ‘Epicure’ – Applying grass clippings as a mulch to earthed up organic Potatoes – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Don’t add your grass cuttings to the compost heap, instead spread them under plants in borders or over your vegetable garden to add goodness to the soil. This method is sustainable, and good for the environment and your garden.

Straw

Fragaria - Ripening strawberries mulched with straw in June - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Fragaria – Ripening strawberries mulched with straw in June – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Straw is a fantastic mulch to use in the summer, especially for low-growing fruit and vegetables such as strawberries, as it creates a clean barrier between the harvest and the soil, and keeps the plant’s roots cool.

Broken slate and pebbles

Step 7 of planting an Acer in a terracotta pot - Cover the surface with broken shale for extra drainage - © GAP Photos/BBC Magazines Ltd

Step 7 of planting an Acer in a terracotta pot – Cover the surface with broken shale for extra drainage – © GAP Photos/BBC Magazines Ltd

Adding stones and pebbles as a mulch to containers and pots serves as both a decorative and practical purpose. It keeps moisture in the soil, and adds a natural topdressing to hide unsightly soil.

The Right Support

Large clump of unsupported Sedum spectabile flopping from centre - © GAP Photos/Julia Boulton

Large clump of unsupported Sedum spectabile flopping from centre – © GAP Photos/Julia Boulton

If there is one garden job that is often missed in the spring, but proves beneficial later on in the season, it’s providing support for vegetable crops, annuals and herbaceous perennials. Plants often flop outwards under the weight of their own flowers and fruit, or bend towards the light; and a few stakes and a bit of string help can prevent this from happening.

Although support can be installed later in the season as required, it is often a good idea to have the framework in place before plant growth really takes off in late spring. Now is a great time to start as you should be able to see where the new growth is, but still have the space to add support without damaging any foliage or roots. Better yet, if you are also planting, you can incorporate a support system at the same time.

When it comes to plant supports, they can be as fancy or simple as you like. Some bamboo canes and string will provide efficient support to climbing annuals such as sweet peas. A few wooden stakes drummed in around the base of a herbaceous perennial, with string laced between them will help the plant upright.

Also consider how you can use plants to decorate structures in your garden. Clematis look beautiful as they steadily climb their way up decorative obelisks. Archways and pergolas can be turned into cool, shady areas in the summer if covered by a sun-loving vine.

Here we have put together ideas for simple and effective plant supports to try now, so that you can spend the summer admiring your garden rather than rushing around in the heat supporting it.