Lambs lettuce is starting to show up all over the place. This happy self-seeder creates splashes of lime-green colour and soft mild leaves for winter salads, perfectly offsetting the dark green landcress and counteracting its strong flavour. The landcress seedheads have now split, and I’ve chopped them down and laid the trimmings directly onto the bed, seeds and all.
My saved seeds from the sorrel (shchnavel) have started to come up, so hopefully I will have small plug plants to add to the beds later for winter salads. There are also red mustard seedlings which germinated in about 24 hours flat, which will add colour to the winter beds. These are strongly-flavoured, but apparently are milder once cooked, so should be a good source of winter greens.
Red orache is producing well, and grew from saved seed. However, I keep forgetting to pinch out the top to encourage more bushy leaf production, so I now have tall plants that are starting to flower. This, of course, means more seed which is fine by me.
Welsh onion is romping away, and is a useful source of oniony greens for potato salad or mash. It has self-seeded, some of which I’ve collected, leaving the rest to sow itself.
Borage is everywhere, popping up out of the compost. Luckily we have learned how to eat the leaves – cut out the centre stalks and sweat them in olive oil and garlic until they look like spinach (don’t add water or they will be too wet).
What’s not working?
Whilst borage-blue sings out with the sweet pea hot pink and runner bean cadmium-red … whilst the bees are in seventh heaven … the actual beans are looking a bit floppy. And no wonder. Runners are thirsty plants at the best of times, and borage is no shrinking violet when it comes to taking up water. So I have taken out every other couple of borage plants to give the beans a fighting chance.
Well … who knew that cosmos would be such a thug? I thought their feathery foliage would be perfect for the polyculture, leaving room and light for leafy veg to grow. But no. No, no, no. The question now is whether to cut it back before it has even flowered, or put it down to experience and try something else next year. With hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have included it in the watering with nettle tea (nitrogen). This might have encouraged leaf production, which is the general idea for leafy veg but not for flowers.
There are few flowers in the back garden, so I might try moving some of the cosmos into a pot for back, creating more room for the kale and chard at the front. Some of the chard is so desperate that it is running to seed, but it isn’t too late to start again. Thinking to the future, I might try some herbs in and amongst the leafy veg, such as chamomile and dill. These dainty little herbs may be less thuggish and more useful. I’m sure cosmos has its place in the … er … cosmos, but that place is almost certainly in a pot.