Thursday, 10 August 2017

Summertime and the Gardening is Easy

Actually that's not remotely true

Here in the South East of England we had a very hot, very dry June, leading to lots of watering, especially in the Square Foot Beds (SFB) where the vegetables were in danger of cooking in the ground.

In early July it remained hot, but oppressively humid, with just a few ineffectual rain and thunder showers. This increased the risk of blight and fungal diseases overpowering the  already stressed plants to "Red Alert"

By late July and early August we'd had much cooler weather, more significant rainfall and higher winds


Lets start with what did or is doing well.
Broad Beans - I sowed The Sutton and Hurst Green Longpod a few weeks apart and grew them on in the greenhouse. They made healthy plants, and continued to grow well after I planted them out in the SFB. Both coped with the hot spell and cropped really well, then as they were petering out, they developed Chocolate Spot (Botrytis fabae), so I simply chopped down the stems, leaving the roots in the soil to release their stored Nitrogen for the next crop.
Parsnips - After two failures to get seeds to germinate (I must buy fresh seeds for Spring - can someone remind me please :D), I bought seedlings. I lost a few to slug damage early on, but now the leaves are 50cm tall and really lush
Peas - The first sowing fail due to Bean Seed Maggot Hylemya florilega (Meigen), they eat the germinating seed and either kill off the seed altogether, or the resulting plant is stunted, deformed and never performs well. I bought some seedlings in a 9cm pot, it was literally a handful of seeds thrown in, but all of them had come up, so I decided to do the same thing myself - to heck with individual modules! Despite the late start I was rewarded with a small but tasty crop.
Asparagus - After several years patience I managed to cut a few spears for eating! Yum!
Kale, Cabbage and Brussels - These are growing well (slight caterpiller infestation) and should be good for eating over winter.
Aubergines - One grafted plant in the greenhouse has produced around 10-12 beautiful big fruits - Moussaka is on the menu :)

tomatoes aubergine cucumber harvest
A basket of tomatoes, aubergine and cucumber
Tomatoes - I have 14 plants in the greenhouse, a mixture of cherry, normal and beefsteak. The Beefsteak isn't cropping well, but all the others are fruiting their socks off. The leaves are showing signs of Septoria fungus leaf spot, but this doesn't affect the fruit, and I am simply removing affected leaves from the bottom of the plant, increasing airflow and encouraging the fruit to ripen.
Potatoes - I planted 10 Red Duke of York tubers in three white sacks, topping up the compost, watering and feeding regularly. I've just dug up 2.6kg of lovely, clean potatoes. I'm really pleased.
Potato Red Duke of York grow bags
Potato Red Duke of York grown in bags
Potato Red Duke York harvested
Potato Red Duke of York harvested
Apples - Scrumptious is in it's third year, and oh boy are there a lot of apples, I thinned them in early June, but I think it might be worth doing it again.
Grapes - The grapevines are heavy with fruit. I've pruned back the long growth to 2 pairs of leaves beyond the bunch of grapes (one bunch per branch). I'm trying to improve my pruning technique and get a tighter structure with short fruiting spurs - it's a process.
Grape Cardinal bunches summer
Grape 'Cardinal'
Raspberries - Have been abundant this year, this is just the first picking

Summer Raspberries harvest
Summer Raspberries (var. unknown)
Gooseberries - Best harvest yet, I had two red ones, no green and lots of stabbings - their thorns are vicious!


Carrots - These have been rubbish, the first sowing failed and the second are pathetic, I doubt they've formed edible roots.
Blueberries - One bush was fine but only had a few fruits, the second bush had loads of fruit, but in the heat they shriveled to the blueberry equivalent of raisins :(
Cucurbits - For me the worst affected plant group this year.
I bought a grafted cucumber plant, and sowed cucumber seeds, lots of courgettes and some squashes. They were growing happily in the greenhouse, and I had high hopes for a courgette glut this year. I planted them into large deep pots (40cm square), kept the grafted plant in the greenhouse, and everything else was placed out beside the chicken run. I thought this would give them better airflow and light than in the SFB, especially as the parsnips, broadies and peas were so tall and lush...then Powdery Mildew struck, smothering the leaves in a layer of grey dust, blocking out the light and curbing the plants vigour. I've been feeding with a liquid (seaweed based) tomato feed, and watering, but the plants are really struggling. I've had just two cucumbers and three courgettes, and there's absolutely no hope of squashes this year :(

Courgette Defender started well early summer
Courgette 'Defender'

In the ornamental garden:

Brimstone butterfly drinking nectar dwarf Buddleja
Brimstone butterfly drinking from the dwarf Buddleja 

Hollyhocks saved seed Bumble Bee
Hollyhocks from Hazelonthehill's saved seed and a Bumble Bee
 Hollyhocks, heuchera, dahlias, trailing geraniums, pelargoniums, ceanothus, phlox, buddleja, and pinks have been doing beautifully. They've all coped really well with the heat and drought.

Cactus Dahlia Purple Gem flower
Cactus Dahlia Purple Gem
Phlox paniculata pink flowers dark centres
 Phlox paniculata
Hardy geraniums, verbascum and delphiniums have suffered, but I've cut them all back hard, and hope for a new flush of  healthy growth. My new David Austin Rose 'Geoff Hamilton' has had four flowers, 2 came and went while we were on holiday in June, the other two appeared during the really hot spell in July. wilted and dropped off before I got to appreciate them. I've given Geoff some rose feed, and hope he may flower again this year.

The Woodland garden looks parched and is carpeted with sycamore seedlings - I can't quite face tackling it at the moment. The hedges have gone crazy and the native plants like Betony and Scabious are seeding themselves all over the drive! Ugh! Can't you stick to the flower bed please??

So there's lots of hard work ahead, deadheading faded blooms to encourage more, weeding, pruning, mulching. It's a neverending cycle, but that's the joy of gardening, however many failure you have,

There's always next year :)

Love PB xx

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