Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts

10 Aug 2012

Time to throw out the rule book

Cherry tree blossom Aug 2012
~ Cherry blossom in August, with ripe cherries on other branches. Confusing? certainly ~

Every year is a learning curve in the garden and this one is certainly no exception.  I read only yesterday that August is the last chance to trim hedges before the autumn frosts.  I was quite taken aback at this as, for me, the summer has only just got going. Plants such as courgettes, cucumbers, hyacinth beans and squashes that have been quietly waiting for some warmth have suddenly started to shoot away.  The cucumbers are putting on a rapid growth spurt, as are the beans. Canadian wonder beans are producing enough for dinner every day; so delicious as young pods but I had intended to grow these for the red kidney beans inside!

Without dwelling on the weather so far this year, my belief is that the seasons have shifted slightly; I'm optimistically expecting another slow decline into autumn, just as we had last year. Jekka McVicar told me earlier this year that she no longer cuts back her lavender in autumn, preferring to leave it until the air has warmed slightly in the early spring. Cutting it back in a warm autumn promotes new growth and confuses the plant, leaving it vulnerable to winter frosts.  She stated that she no longer relies on the old rules and given wisdom because the seasons have noticeably changed. Coming from someone whose business and reputation relies on interpreting the seasons correctly, hers is an opinion that I take note of.

Global warming is definitely affecting the gardening calendar and we have to make adjustments accordingly. Personally, I'm trying to garden instinctively, being prepared to experiment a bit and remaining stoic about any losses along the way. In this way, I haven't lost plants to water rot or slug damage this year but everything is very behind in it's growth. Except the sunflowers and herbs which are perennial or self-seeded.

If my prediction for the autumn comes true, that would mean 90 or more days of reasonably warm weather before any cold winter snaps visit the garden - bearing in mind that I live in London, in the South East of the UK.  Of course the light levels will diminish as days get shorter, so any planting done now would have to be in the brightest areas of the garden.  I'm fortunate that the veg patch gets a good seven hours of sun/light at this time of year.  The north-east facing walled border gets around 5 hours but the fruit trees planted there partly shade the earth beneath anyway.  (One of my winter jobs is to move a couple more fruit trees, especially as the cherry tree re-established itself so successfully this year.)

I pulled the last of the Little Finger carrots this week - they are by far the tastiest I've grown and I've just received a new bag of seeds to sow a new crop which should be ready by mid-October. The Amsterdam Sprint carrots will keep me going but the taste is not quite as delicious.  I'm also going to put in more dwarf beans (Canadian Wonder and Annabelle french beans), mange tout and salad leaves. It may not work but, on the other hand, my cherry tree thinks it's spring!

Edited to add:  I sowed mangetout, dwarf beans and giant sugar peas 2 days ago on the 8th; this morning, the 11th, they are showing through the soil.  :)

18 Jul 2012

Sun, flower


(Sing along now...)
I got sun-shiiiine, on a cloudy day...
When it's cold outside, I got the month of May...
I. guess. you'd. say... what can make me feel this way?

After the gloom of the slug post, I thought sharing a bit of mid-week cheer was in order (even though, for now, it's still raining here in London).

SunflowerTwo whole days of dryness in one week would be reason enough to celebrate this summer; yesterday was one of those days - albeit pretty overcast - and, on Sunday, we actually saw some blue skies in London. Yesterday evening after work, determined that summer will happen eventually, I took a stroll down to the veg patch to plan what needed to be done next.  Everything looked as it did when I left it on Sunday, perhaps the purple podded were a little plumper but the courgettes were no bigger, the climbing beans no taller. Then - whoop-di-doo! - I spotted that the first of my sunflowers had flowered!  Obviously the Sunday sunshine had worked it's magic.  Such a simple thing, but it definitely cheered me up.

I dashed home to get my camera and had to stand on two wobbly bricks and hold it up high, at arm's length, in the gathering dusk, to get this photo.  I confess I have used Photoshop to deepen the colours very slightly in the top photo to bring out the warmth of the petals.  I could almost believe the sun was shining!

According to online forecasts, the jetstream is moving north this weekend and, in the south at least, we will be basking in, err, 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 celsius).  That'll do me.

Photo, untouched by photoshop.

For more feelgood cheer, try watching (or dancing to) this video by NZ band The Babysitters Circus:

So you say everything's going to be alright now
But how do you really know?
And I know everything's going to be alright now,
Cos that's the seed I sow.

20 Jul 2011

When it rains, it pours


I've been very lucky with the weather over the past few days; having been out to sow more seeds, the skies have obliged with a generous watering.  When I've needed courgette flowers, the sun has warmed the plant, the bees have appeared and fruits formed.  During a trip to the farm yesterday, we strolled in warm sunshine and I was able to take some Lemon Balm cuttings from their wild growing clumps. Safely back indoors, it rained during the afternoon.  Going out to pick sweet peas in the evening (having been told that picking encourages more flowers), I noticed that the nasturtiums were studded with diamonds!  Raindrops glittered on the waxy leaves and this water, puddled in the centre of a leaf, twinkled brightly like a large glass drop.

Even better, just as I was turning to go home, a bee buzzed along straight into an open female courgette flower to pollinate it!  Not a great photo, but lovely to see the bee doing his work and a magical moment to end the visit on.

Pollinating courgette flower

Today:  if the rain holds off, a bit of weeding and pruning is on the cards for me! Fingers crossed and happy gardening!

27 May 2011

Berry berry rainy

We're having typical Wimbledon weather in London this week - a few weeks early!

strawberry harvest

Just two days ago, on a warm sunny evening, I was invited to raid my friend's abundant strawberry patch and returned home with the above tray and thoughts of Eton Mess, strawberries and cream, strawberries in basil sugar, strawberries drizzled with balsamic then dipped in crème fraiche ... choices, choices!  I stepped onto the balcony the following day in hot sunshine to prepare the culinary feast.

Yesterday was a somewhat different story: while stepping out over Hampstead Heath, I got caught in ... yes, at last! ... rain showers.  As I whizzed homewards, getting absolutely drenched, I kept repeating "think of the veg, think of the veg".  It made the soaking so much more comforting.

So much exciting watery goodness after weeks of drought prompted thoughts of an immediate post yesterday but I was thwarted as my son has the laptop for his GCSE revision these days. (I'm availing myself during his Chemistry exam.)  Having dried off, I stayed firmly indoors in the afternoon which was just as well because it monsooned non-stop for most of the afternoon:

I watched raindrops gathering on the windows


and as it eased off, I waded out on to the balcony to photograph the coriander:

Raindrops on coriander

Wonderful to have a real drenching for all the veg and flowers but, having put out my beans and sweet corn the night before, I wish it hadn't been quite so blustery!  

See you tomorrow for the Saturday Snap!

1 Sept 2010

Catching up…

Well, here we are again… I hadn't realised that I'd been away so long, the weeks have just slipped by.  (Did anyone notice?)  I wish I could say that I'd been enjoying myself on holiday somewhere warm - but, no. Truth is that the deluge of rain … day after soggy day … coupled with very strong winds was wreaking havoc in my little vegetable garden and I had to devise various Heath Robinson structures to stop everything keeling over.

My poor beans had been happily climbing up a ridge-tent-shaped frame of bamboo poles - but I'd forgotten to pinch out the growing tip. Gradually it became a tad top heavy and started to lean ever-so-slightly.  The problem was made worse as continuous rain softened the soil and the wind pushed it over as if the frame was being pulled from one end.  I had to duck underneath to get by!  All very well until someone gets hurt and one stick was, by now, at eye-poking level.

While figuring out a solution to the bean problem, the wind kept blowing and then I found my beautiful super-tall sunflowers had succumbed and collapsed across my fruit trees and crash landed on the potatoes.  The roots were ripped up but because I found them not long after, I was able to firm them back into the soil and start hoping for recovery… but that ol' wind kept blowing.

Time for some urgent action.  A hazel wigwam was dismantled and the branches used to pin the sunnies against the wall.  Hmm, gooood thinking. 

The beans, though, were slightly more problematic: I'd tried tensioning the frame with some ties, like pitching a tent.  That worked for a while but the wind got stronger and stretched the ties.  It was Leigh who found the solution: a small team of us dragged a very heavy builder's bag over to the veg patch as ballast and anchored the bean frame to that.  Looks ugly as hell but - hey - it works!  Should get a few more beans before the end of the summer.  And what have I learned from all this?  Next year, I'm going to grow my beans up a very sturdy wigwam!  (and pinch out the growing tip)

Elsewhere everything is a bit wind-bashed but surviving:  I'm getting some lovely carrots with excellent flavour…  (all that rain must have done them good)

The beetroot is getting awesomely large…

The bees are still visiting the last of the lavender…

And what I thought were wonderfully chic black chilli peppers are, in fact, turning a vile colour I can only describe as blorange.  Fingers crossed for improvements on that front…

27 Sept 2009

The Last Hurrah of the English Summer…

I'm unashamedly going to do the Brit thing and chat about the weather because what an absolutely great weekend we've had here in London.  Beautiful clear cloudless deep blue skies, the sort that make you lift your face towards the sun with your eyes closed to better bask in it, losing where you are in the warmth of the moment (and, admittedly, looking as if your brain has been abducted by aliens as you stand there wobbling with an idiot grin on your face).

The photos above were snapped when I went for a stroll around the flats with my camera on Saturday.  Everything seemed to have it's best party clothes on as the sun was shining.  Looking at sunny images of our fruit and flowers makes me feel happy so this could well be my inspiration in the long months ahead.

And another plus is that when I'd done basking and snapping, the sun had recharged my batteries and Things Got Done.  A few of us ventured into the Veg Patch for weeding and digging and afterward produce from our various growing spaces was used to make batches of  soup*, oven roasted tomatoes* and fresh bread - leaving me with just enough energy to pop down to the Regent Street Festival in the West End where a huge stack of pink and purple cupcakes had been set up - happy birthday Regent Street! (Even though it seemed you could look but not touch - boo! hiss!)

* Some of our team have very kindly said they thought these recipes sounded good, so I'm going to share the love on these later in the week.  Watch this space …

2 Sept 2009

Mister Blue Sky… where did we go wrong?

Image courtesy of Edible Playgrounds website (see below) - Aww, so sweet.

Rainy days, colder nights and shorter evenings signal the death of another summer. Call me stupid (err… actually, no, don't) but, yes, I am taken by surprise. Surely, this is indecently early? The last week of the school summer holidays should be filled with tantalisingly warm sunshine to taunt the children with the thought of the glorious days they'll miss once back at school. (Cackles in evil, pantomime way.) And give us gardeners a chance to bimble about happily among the fruit, veg and flowers in that beautiful late summer glow. (Instead of dashing back in to the greenhouse for warming mugs of tea.)

Thoughts of sowing for winter food seem a chilly prospect - especially as we have to prepare more raised beds before the truly wintry weather sets in (adding cold to the current lashings of wind and rain) and I'm therefore glad to have stumbled across the Gardening with Children website and their blog. (Although the blog is more up to date than the website!) The site has been created by Recycle Works to inspire food growing in schools but is also full of fact sheets and gardening tips for family or small plot growers to pull us through to next Spring. There's also an excellent and extensive page on funding options if you're inspired to start a little project of your own.

However, my Top Banana goes to The Edible Playground, a great website well worth exploring and which is given to us by yummy Dorset Cereals*. Dominic Murphy, Guardian gardening guru, gives really good advice. (Go on, try saying that out loud… I did, and it gets worse each time.) There's steps on how to start and, for the inevitable rainy days (in the UK at least), there's a trug full of creative projects to keep teachers, and parents, sane. Oh yes, it's also linked in to the National Curriculum. I'm in awe - they've thought of everything. Gold Star, chaps.

*Ahem. Your attention please while I indulge in a spot of blatant electioneering. We're nominated in the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards - and despite opposition from some truly great blogs (I lost half a day to reading and only got to page 5 of their list) we'd love your vote. Or click on the eggcup on the right. Mwah. Thanks lovely visitors. Have a great day!

17 Aug 2009

Seeds of Change…

"…there is really no such thing as bad weather,
only different kinds of good weather."
~John Ruskin

I owe you all an apology. I may have left you with the impression that the game was up after the recent prolonged over-watering of the Veg Patch by Mother Nature. Admittedly we didn't check on any progress for a couple of days - let's face it, there would have been nothing to see anyway, whether the seeds were still there or not.

But! tra la la, happiness and optimism restored! Incredibly, only five days after sowing, plus the bountiful gift of water from the skies, tiny little leaves (oops no, let me guess … cotyledons?) appeared, followed a few days later by a micro forest of radish foliage. (Exciting times, indeed.)

I have since read via Garden Action that "[radishes] are an ideal vegetable for the amateur gardener. [They] require almost no attention once past the seedling stage - their main requirement is a reasonable supply of water."

Ooookaaay, right. Big tick in that box then.

14 Aug 2009

Après la Deluge…

It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain.
~Mark Twain

I am, by nature, an optimist. Which means that I will plant seeds in August when the packet clearly says Sow May to July. Who knew that two days after sprinkling our seeds (and hopes) into the ground, there would be monsoon conditions over North London?

We'd wished for clement weather to
coax our seeds into new life. Had we been given a choice, I imagine the order would have been for a gentle blanket of Irish rain, preferably in the morning, to balance the scorch of summer sunshine.

After tending to the Veg Patch in the early morning sun, some of our group headed off for a day out at the seaside. Within hours, an overcast sky had darkened to produce a heavy deluge(* dictionary moment below!) of rain of some 8 hours duration. Flowerbeds filled like ponds, unable to drain the water away fast enough, and, as the rain continued on (and on, and on), I pictured our little Veg Patch seeds floating away on the tide. We'd already been scuppered by a skulk of foxes enjoying the smell of fresh compost and now it was Mother Nature's turn.

And what of our friends struggling soggily back from Southend? Not a bit of it. They stepped, bone dry, out of the train station in a moment of light drizzle. "Rain? …What rain? We've had a smashing day and the first few drops we've seen was one station back down the line!"

Really, you couldn't make it up if you tried.

* I love the origins of language. So, for anyone, like me, who thinks about such things, the meaning of Deluge is literally 'washed away' from the Latin (diluere/diluvium) and thence to Old French (diluve) and to late Middle English. So now you know.

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