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GARDENING: Enjoy fresh treats on those long June evenings

June 23rd, 2024 7:45 AM


GARDENING: Enjoy fresh treats on those long June evenings Image
Broad beans ready to pick. (Photo: Ben Russell)

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JUNE can be one of the loveliest months of the year. It may not always be as warm as we would like, but days are long and it is lovely to get out in the garden in fine weather. All the new season crops are starting to crop and these can bring some of the tastiest fresh treats. Pick, eat and enjoy some small delights before the glut starts to build in a few short weeks.

Broad beans

These beans are delicious if picked and used when small and certainly before they turn tough and starchy. Plants are easy to grow, although they do require regular watering when in flower and tall varieties need some support. If you sowed broad beans last autumn, they should be in full production now. Pick pods when you can feel that the beans are about thumbnail size. Check one pod and make sure the beans are green-tinged and juicy as well as the size that you want. If the first pod looks perfect, then use this as a standard for choosing other pods to harvest. Tender beans like these will cook very fast. You can sauté in butter or boil for no more than four minutes.

Spring sown broad beans won’t be far behind the autumn ones. They grow faster in more clement conditions and should certainly be in flower now from a March sowing. Many flowers will have set and plants will have some pods.

Early potatoes

If you got early potatoes in the ground in mid-March – or even earlier if you planted them in a cold frame, greenhouse, or polytunnel – then it may be worth checking how those spuds are doing. There should be plenty of foliage on each plant and the ground should be watered as needed in dry weather.

Try digging a few first early potatoes.


You can risk digging a plant to see if there are a few tasty treats to be used now, but I usually get my fingers in the soil and root around to see how big the potatoes are before lifting anything. In a good year, there should be a perfectly respectable harvest of small salad-sized potatoes. If you only have a few plants, then wait – the crop will be much bigger if you leave plants another few weeks. If you have lots of plants, then it’s worth sacrificing one or two for this delicious early treat.

Courgettes and more

Courgettes are so yummy when picked and used small that I try not to let them grow into monsters. It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by the courgette glut later in the season, so pick and enjoy the early ones while they are at their best.

Fry whole small courgettes in butter and eat while they still have some ‘bite’.

Greenhouse cucumber plants can be producing fruits now. Make sure stems have support and pick first fruit a little on the small side, so a large heavy crop doesn’t put too much strain on young plants.

Strawberries produce their sweetest fruits if exposed to full sun. leave them to ripen as long on the plants as you can. And watch out for mice taking a share of the fruit – we caught seven over several nights under the strawberry net.

Some big and blousy flowers

I love bold big perennial poppies as much as the smaller annual ones. Both add a bit of drama to borders even though each flower doesn’t last long.

Big and bold peony flowers.


Peonies are flowering too and they definitely fit into the big and blousy group. No matter what colour I think I buy, my plants turn out pink flowers! There are gorgeous orange varieties available and if you can be sure of your source they may turn out the right colour. Keep plants fed and watered if you want good flowers.

Keep sowing

Salad leaves, lettuce and spinach should be sown every few weeks if you want to keep up a regular supply. Plants tend to bolt and finish faster in hot weather, so try to provide a small bit of shade if you want them to last longer. It may get too hot in the greenhouse to halt bolting, but cooling by spraying paths and misting salad rows with water will always help.

You can sow Swiss chard, parsley and Florence fennel now if you want autumn supplies of these plants.

Remember to protect soft fruits

Birds will start to feed as soon as fruits start to ripen. There’s still just time to net redcurrants and raspberries, as well as strawberries, so get some netting on. Take great care if putting netting over plants at this late stage – it’s all too easy to pull off fruits. Use sticks with bottles on top to hold the net away from the plants and weight down edges so birds can’t push underneath.

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