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.  :)


16 comments:

  1. I did a load of late sowings at the beginning of the week to try and take advantage of a hopeful Indian summer - this year has been so upsidedown that anything goes. I do hope it's not going to be like this every year - it makes something that was once pleasureable very stressful.

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    1. I agree, Elaine. It seems that I'm clearing stuff away ready for the season's end and yet still hopeful of a bit more harvest. Things that grow quickly, like dwarf French beans, have been resown and the seedlings are now a few inches high. Everything in the garden is growing rapidly so I hope these will too!

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  2. Hope you're right about a nice Autumn. We deserve it after the Summer we've had!

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    1. I know, Bridget - the darker evenings are happening already (dark by 8.30 pm), which makes the summer seem over already. Very gloomy thought that we're rushing towards winter and seed saving for next year!

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  3. An interesting post. In view of changing climate and weather patterns I agree that we should now trust our instincts far more than we do rather than go by the books and so-called seasons.
    I agree with your second to last paragraph that planting/sowing now is still worthwhile.
    Lucky you with the carrots as none of my several sowings germinated.
    Flighty xx

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    1. Sorry to hear that your carrots haven't done well, Flighty. I grow small carrots so that they'll mature quickly and I'm always mindful of not harvesting any in the evening when the carrot fly might smell them! xx

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  4. Though I have been gardening for more years than I care to admit, veggie gardening is still the hardest for me - so I truly appreciate following your adventures!

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    1. Everyone has their own special skills, Jayne. I'm always impressed by shrub and flower gardeners as veg growing seems to come easily to me. Next year will tell as I want to grow more flowers next year so we'll see how well I do then!

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  5. I agree Caro, with such topsy-turvy weather we need to garden by instinct and common sense - with a healthy pinch of optimistic adventure - and throw out a lot of the "rules". I certainly plan to try sowing various things as soon as I can clear some ground. I have my eye on that circle bed, I'm sure it would be improved by a few mange tout...

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    1. I'm avidly following your posts since your move, Janet - such a glorious location and such potential for your garden! And, of course, you'll have to follow your instincts given the climate and challenges but I'd happily swop for the view from your front door! x

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  6. My son gave the hedge in my front garden a trim today, I hope that will be it for this year now, it seems to grow so quick. Another first is the courgette which was picked from the allotment, fingers crossed for a glut, it will be the only one this year. Just to let you know, I've awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award, details on my blog. I hope you will accept it but understand if you'd prefer not to. I just want to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog.

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    1. Oh, thanks Jo for the award and lovely comments. We had the gardeners around here to trim up all the shrubs and trees at the weekend - it seems a bit early but I suppose they have to plan how to fit all the jobs in. Hot weather has brought on one courgette and one squash here and my raspberries are still fruiting into their third month! I'm hopeful of a few more good things to come but would also like to put this abysmal gardening year to bed!!

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  7. Hi Caro, Oh it's all so topsy-turvy isn't it? My crab apple has suffered from the cold spell that coincided with it flowering. Compared to last year I don't have many fruit on it. It's also looking a bit worse for wear, poor thing. I hope it survives. I love that tree and really don't want to have to get rid of another tree from the garden.

    It's interesting to know that someone like Jekka is having to rethink how she does things. For me the seasons seem so much less defined. We seem to get unseasonal warm spells either in spring or autumn and summer is anything but summery. I so feel for people whose livelihoods depend on the weather. I guess we're all going to have to learn to be a bit more flexible in our approach to gardening in the future.

    Canadian wonder beans they sound intriguing.

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    1. I didn't have any fruit this year, Welly - apart from a small handful of Morello cherries which I'm not a great fan of. (That's why that tree got moved first, terrible to say but I didn't mind if it didn't survive the move!) I think the seasons are confusing all the plants but the perennials will no doubt adapt faster than we will!
      Canadian Wonder beans - great name, isn't it! But they're just beans that mature into red kidney beans - also very prolific and very tasty as young beans. Eating a lot of those this summer and loving it!

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  8. Hi Caro, thanks very much for visiting my blog. It's good to find another north London garden blog as I'd been googling for other people out there without success. I really enjoyed the story of the York Rise Growers. It would be nice to have more of a garden community here in Clapton but I haven't found it yet. Interesting comment about the lavender. I usually chop away at mine in September but might consider leaving it this year if it doesn't look too messy.

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    1. Lovely to meet another London gardener - especially one who suffers the same pests as me! If you want to find other London gardeners, have a look at the Capital Growth website which gives details of growing spaces that they've funded. Even better, sign up to UK Veg Gardeners (link in my sidebar) or Blotanical and see who else might be out there - the internet can be a wonderful thing!

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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