My blueberry bushes, ‘Bluecrop’, are 3 years old now and are becoming more productive with each year that passes. Blueberries have a bit of a bad rep for being fussy but I actually find them to be fairly low maintenance. Each autumn, I add a bag of ericaceous compost to the bed to feed the soil and ensure acidity and each spring, I add an organic seaweed feed when the plants start to flower… and that’s it. The berries are delicious!
My top tip: although it’s tempting to harvest the fruits as soon as the berries darken, it really is worth waiting just a little longer. The berries normally take on a dusty appearance when fully ripe. To remove them from the bush, all you need to do is roll the fruit between your forefinger and thumb and it should pull away without protest.
Another favourite harvest this month is the peppers. I grow a variety of peppers, but one that works really well here is a variety called ‘Snackbite’. The plants produce small, sweet, and quick-to-ripen fruits which can be helpful if our summer weather is not ideal. I sow our peppers indoors in February and move them out to the greenhouse once the risk of frost has passed, normally mid May where we are in East Lothian. The plants are quite compact and would happily live on a windowsill if you do not have a greenhouse.
My top tip: I originally bought seeds but now save seeds from the peppers each year and plant those. To save the seeds, pick them from inside the pepper, let them dry on a piece of kitchen roll, and then fold that up and store it in a seed box until the following year.
Carrots are one of my favourite things to grow in the garden and I find it so satisfying to hear the little ‘pop’ as I pull the roots from the ground. Each year, I sow the seeds successionally with a row going in every four weeks or so until mid summer, which provides me with carrots from late spring until early autumn. I would really recommend a carrot fly resistant variety called ‘Nandor F1’. While I enjoy growing different types and do tend to net them, I found it liberating that these could be grown without netting and still produce sweet and delicious roots. This might make carrot growing more accessible if you are just starting out and might not have experience of pests or the budget to invest in quality insect mesh.
My top tip: I normally fleece my carrot bed in autumn which helps the soil to retain some warmth through the colder months and helps it to heat up quickly in spring. This means that I can sow my seeds a little earlier than our Scottish climate would normally allow (around mid March) and, in turn, gives me an earlier crop. The variety ‘Little Finger’ is ideal for this because they are quick to crop, taking only 10-12 weeks from sowing to harvest. They’re also great if you are growing in clay soil or in containers.
Jobs Ahead: Maintain Strawberry Beds
One of our raised beds is dedicated to strawberries and contains a mix of varieties, ‘Elsanta’, ‘Albion’, and ‘Honeoye’. Now that they’re finished fruiting, the runners are out of control and August and September is a good time to sort the bed out!
I’ve potted up the ones that I want to keep and once they have rooted well, I prune the plants quite aggressively, cutting off all the foliage. By leaving only the crown, I can see the bed more clearly to remove any plants which are causing congestion and sort out any which look diseased or damaged. We are quite fortunate to have fairly mild winters in East Lothian compared to other areas of Scotland, so once I have topped the bed with its annual mulch of compost, it is left uncovered and exposed to the elements. The only time I do fleece the bed is during the spring if the flowers have already emerged and we are at risk of a late frost – which is pretty much always the case!
Suz Reid lives in a new build home in East Lothian where she grows fruit and veg in her new build back garden. You can follow her on Instagram for more chat on how she manages it all, with the help of two young children!