7 Sep 2014

Here we go September; Bye-bye August



I'm pleased August is over; it was too hot and too dry (unbelievably for the UK) and September is always so wonderfully lush - the penultimate hurrah of the season.  Without a tap in the veg garden here, the plants have had to struggle without water while we had nearly a month of no rain. My water butts ran dry in the first week; after that, the plants were on their own apart from a few daily cans of water going onto the tomatoes and asparagus beds. A friend on the top floor used to lower a hosepipe connected to the water supply in her flat. Since having new taps, the connector doesn't fit so I've been carrying water from my bathroom, two blocks and four flights of stairs away.



Shallow-rooted raspberry canes have really struggled with the lack of water and it shows in their leaves. Even the courgettes stopped fruiting and any courgettes that had formed simply yellowed on the plant. (They have slightly perked up since the rains came. The plants, that is, not the yellowing courgettes.) Not quite the bountiful harvest that I'd hoped for. I am thankful not to have to deal with gluts of beans and courgettes but a few more would have been nice - especially since the courgette chutney I made turned out to be delicious. I've a feeling those jars won't last long enough.

Just when I was completely despairing at the lack of water and I'd been out to buy a fourth hosepipe so that I could connect them up to reach the nearest tap (over 200 metres away), the wind picked up, the skies turned grey and it practically didn't stop raining for the last week of the month! Buckets left out to catch any rainfall filled overnight (or within an afternoon's rainfall).  I got caught out in a sudden shower a couple of weeks back and even my waterproof was soaked within minutes and my shoes waterlogged as the drains were unable to cope with the downpour causing huge lakes to form on the roads.  At least the garden was finally getting watered and seeds sowed between showers popped up within 48 hours!

Curly parsley and feverfew in the herb bed.

UK weather is notoriously variable but this past month has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous with  very little inbetween. At one point, I set out in sunshine and was being rained on by the time I reached the end of the road; as I turned around for home, hailstones of ice pounded down on me and I returned home as thunder and lightning rumbled across the skies. Just a normal British day? For a while, yes.

So how are things in the garden? Truthfully, only rosy-ish. It all looks very lush and green but there's very little to eat apart from masses of herbs and a handful of fruit. The greenery is supplied by giant rhubarb and courgette leaves, nasturtiums and herbs.



I've taken off all the lower leaves of the tomato plants so that the fruit can ripen. My mistake was to grow them grouped together in the asparagus bed. I'd read that toms and asparagus are ideal companion plants so thought it worth a try. In hindsight, I feel tomatoes are better grown in a row, spaced well apart where they see the sun. I'll still have a few tomatoes when they ripen but certainly haven't had plants dripping with trusses. Possibly the water thing again and I've lost a few branches to the strong winds we (also) had in August. The Indigo Rose black tomato, which I know many other bloggers have been growing, seems to have very late ripening fruit; heavy rains have split quite a few and the remaining trusses are only just turning now, at the beginning of September. I'll leave these as long as possible to see what flavour develops. Let's give them a fair trial.

Clockwise from left: Indigo Rose, Maskotka, Yellow Pear, Sungold.


The artichoke looks dead but I'm thrilled to see that there are new shoots coming up at the base. (I had been wondering whether it had suffered a premature death.) The bush beans are slowly starting to produce, a handful here and there, but nothing like the glut I was expecting - and the plants are still attracting black aphids. (I won't be sad to see the back of those come winter.) I haven't had any strawberries to speak of this year but ten raspberry canes have been producing a small bowlful about twice a week. Tall beans and cucamelons have been non-starters with the lack of water - or maybe I was tempting fate by installing an enormous 2 metre arch for them to scramble up.

By mid-August I noticed that every time I went to the garden, I found apples with one bite taken out of them before being tossed aside. Grrrrrr. To curb my frustration and thwart the miscreants, I decided to pick all the remaining fruit. The taste was okay (another 3 to 4 weeks would have been preferable)  and at least I have a few for purée, crumbles and chutney. They'll go nicely with my green tomatoes and courgette.



Harvested:
Raspberries
Apples
Kale 'Cavolo Nero'
Bush beans (delicious flat pods that will turn into red kidney beans if left)
Physalis (Cape Gooseberry/ground cherries)
Beetroot
Spring onions
Tomatoes
Courgettes (the small newer leaves are delicious too, cooked and eaten as greens)
Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Herbs: parsley, rosemary, bay, oregano, thyme, lovage, lemon verbena

Looking forward - sown or planted out:
Plants of Romanesco cauliflower, broccoli and okra from seeds sown back in May and potted on.
I put wool slug pellets around them and cages over the top to deter pigeons. They've doubled in size in the past week.
Chilli plants, still ripening but turning the most amazing colours!

Seeds:
Spinach 'Nile' and Spinach 'Picasso',
Ruby Chard,
Cavolo Nero,
Celtuce (a cross between celery and lettuce)
French Breakfast radish
Parsley
Rocket (aka Arugula)
Lettuce (Marvel of Four Seasons and Salad Bowl)
Shimonita spring onions
Carrots (fingers crossed for some baby carrots before winter)
Beetroot (for overwintering)

Jobs to do:
Be vigilant! I squished some grey aphids off the broccoli yesterday and have seen butterfly eggs on a neighbour's cabbage leaves so netting the beds is the next step.
Chop back the strawberry top growth and pot up a few of the runners from Mara des Bois plants. These will replace the plants I was donated several years ago.
Move plants. I planted the lovage and pineapple sage too close to each other so one will have to be moved.
Make more chutney and jam. The rhubarb that I'm growing is Glaskins Perpetual. It has a reputation for  having a much longer season that other varieties and is looking really healthy. I'll try taking a few more stems for the freezer and for preserves - I've found a nice sounding recipe for Rhubarb, Rose and Cardamom jam. Very exotic!
Sow more spinach. I can never have enough of the stuff and the seeds sown last month are now being harvested as baby leaves.
Weeding! The dry weather gave me a month off this chore, now it's back to reality.


This post was destined for the monthly Garden Share Collective but I missed the link-in deadline. The other posts can be read here on Lizzie's Strayed from the Table blog.



29 comments:

  1. 2014 won't go down in the annals of gardening as a bumper year! August here was very poor - we had very little sun, but loads of rain and some very cold temperatures. I couldn't help chucking over your antics with hosepipes. The lengths (no pun intended) gardeners will go to, to get water to their plants! My Runner Beans really struggled in the blazing hot, dry weather of July, and the yield has been very modest. with the advent of cooler but sunny weather now they may have a late rally.

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    1. I expect allotment gardeners still had quite a good return for their time investment this year but in a small space any problems can seriously reduce a promising harvest. Everything struggled here; by the third week in August, I was threatening to dig everything up and chuck it all in! (Thankfully, sense - and rainshowers - prevailed!)

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    1. :) !! I didn't spot the spelling omission until you pointed it out! x

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  3. Nice bounty you have there despite the few challenges you had to go through, from dry weather to bitten apples! Feeling very optimistic here about September. So far we're all off to a good start :)

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    1. Not to mention the slugs, greenfly, black aphids and footballs! The playground here was closed all summer for repairs (nice timing, huh!) so the kids played ball games in the front gardens which is where I garden. Lost a few pots, raspberry canes and tomato trusses that way. Yes, I do feel optimistic again, I rather like the autumn - probably the chance of a sit down and rest!

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  4. The garden looks great despite/because of the weather. :) Good luck with the Indigo Rose.....

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    1. Thanks, PL. I'm not sure what to expect from Indigo Rose. I really want it to be a good tomato because of it's fabulous name!

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  5. There's not as much produce as I'd like here either. I love the look of your herb bed. The biggest boy wants to grow herbs next year in his little raised bed. I'm going to try those Maskotka tomatoes as well. I always grow Sungold, they never fail me, and I've heard good things about Maskotka as well. I have to say it's all looking beautifully green and full of flowers with you, despite the slight lack of crops. It's so pretty I think you can forgive it! Have a good week Caro. CJ xx

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    1. Aww, thanks, CJ! I do love my little garden and try to make it as pretty - and productive - as possible. Great that your biggest boy wants to grow herbs, they're so reliable. It could be the start of a lifelong obsession! Did I read that you had/planned a trip to the local herb farm? One of my greatest pleasures is being able to pop down to the herb patch whenever a recipe calls for thyme or parsley and, of course, there's the whole bee thing when the herbs flower.

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  6. How strange - our August has been wetter than usual and cooler than usual.

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    1. Amazing the difference a couple of hundred miles can make! I'm going to be up your way in a couple of weeks, bringing my son up to Uni. He's used to warmer southern temperatures so I'll have to warn him of the weather variations!

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    2. It's been lovely so far this week. Is ge going to Leeds uni. You'll pass us if you come up the M1 and could pop in for a coffee.

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    3. He's going to Leeds Met (now Beckett) and yes, the dreaded M1 is the route I'll take as it's door to door almost. Would be lovely to pop in for coffee on the Monday before I head south again - we're staying in Carlton Village - thanks for the invitation!

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    4. I've emailed some info for you

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  7. Our veggies seem to have fared a bit better than yours. Thank goodness we don't have to go to such lengths to get water to the site. We certainly didn't have the extremes of weather that you have had, just a drought for 2 months and then gentle rain which did so much good. We now have a freezer bursting with runner beans, we are now enjoying our sweetcorn and have eaten so many courgettes, they must be coming out of our ears! Dwarf French beans were a disaster, the slugs got them all ! Broad beans were ok too, so I think we did quite well considering.

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    1. My dwarf french beans were targetted by slugs earlier in the year, Pauline, but the wool pellets seemed to hold them at bay long enough for the plants to get going. Next year, I'm definitely growing tall beans up poles! My courgette is wonderfully leafy but I don't seem to have too much fruit from it. Obviously I need to rethink what gets put in the sunshine spots for best value.

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  8. An interesting post, and one I certainly sympathise with.
    I think that, like me, you perhaps need to think about growing less but better according to circumstances such as the water problem if it doesn't rain.
    Despite the slugs and snails, etc. I feel that I've had a better year than I was expecting to. Flighty xx

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    1. Good advice, Flighty. I've already been looking at a few choices for next year and beans that can withstand a lack of water have gone on the list. I do enjoy my green beans and would hate to be without them. I have, yet again, been told that outside taps will be installed before next summer - hopefully this time it will be true. Since writing and posting this, I've actually harvested rather a lot of beans, rhubarb, raspberries and tomatoes - so perhaps, like you, not too bad at all! (Just a bit later than expected.) Caro xx

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  9. The weather has been downright strange, even for us! I love the look of those indigo rose toms, I'll be interested to find out what you think of them....glad to hear your artichoke is coming back, mine have done nothing much this year.
    Who on earth is snapping at your apples....that is annoying! Good luck with your to-do list and here's to your water butts staying full....we could do with some rain too!xxx

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    1. The Indigo Rose toms have been much heralded by Suttons and James Wong this year but most bloggers remain unimpressed, comparing them to the much more reliable Gardeners Delight and other standard toms. If nothing else, they'll go into a nice chutney! Hopefully your artichoke is gathering strength for next year; this was a first year for mine so only a couple of flowers but I've a feeling it will get huge! The apple scrumping is being done by people who wander through these flats - oh how I long for my own garden with walls all around!!

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  10. Oh Caro I sometimes wonder if London is an another country although I'm glad to hear that somebody enjoy warmth,sunshine and no weeding. Here it was really a miserable month - cool, wet and sometimes very windy. So far September has been a great improvement. I admire your tenacity with the watering can.

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    1. I had to chuckle at your comment, Anna! Yes, I think London is on a whole planet of its own sometimes, never mind in another country! If I wasn't a veg grower, I'd appreciate hot weather a lot more; as it is I do worry about how my plants are faring in the baking heat. Things are now back to normal here too - cool in the mornings and rather nice by evening, at least for now. My current battle is with the vast numbers of spider webs stretched across the plants - it's quite challenging getting to the veg without disturbing them!

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  11. I always find ti weirdly comforting to read that other people have been experiencing similar problems with plant yields. I won't have loads of beans to blanch and freeze this year, and I shall have to leave experiments with courgette chutney too! I'm growing those wretched purple toms in a greenhouse and they still aren't ripening fully. I begin to despair - they are destined for chutney... OTOH, the chillies are looking wonderful and the various French and Runner beans are still cropping well and taste delicious, all winners. I really must do a blog post about them. As for watering, you make me feel bad about the way I whinge about having to water my few beds by hand, and I still have the benefit of water in the water butts, not to mention a distinct lack of stairs to negotiate! As for your August weather, I am with Anna, I didn't recognise it as the same month. September, however, is just what August should have been with the added benefit of that gorgeous soft autumn light.

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    1. It's hugely comforting to know that any poor yields are not due to our expertise - or lack of! Some people have, of course, done well but then we don't know the size of their plots in comparison to the yields they're getting. Also, some gardeners have been unlucky with their choice of bought in compost - it seems there's always something to thwart our enthusiasm!
      With the sunshine we've had this summer, I can't understand why toms are slow to ripen. I'd much rather have a juicy ripe tomato than green chutney so I'm leaving mine on the plants in the spirit of optimism! Luckily there's no blight here (say it quietly!). We've had lovely weather recently, I just hope it will continue for a bit longer!

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  12. I'm just catching up. The title of your post made me chuckle because it's almost time to say goodbye to another month. It has been so dry here, although we had a storm last night and more rain today which was much needed. I ended up picking our apples a little early too. Last year they were got by wasps and this year by something unidentified creature. Still, we had a good crop. It sounds like you've had a good harvest but I know how you feel when some things don't quite work out as planned. We're all too hard on ourselves though. ;)

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    1. And here's me being even later in replying to your comment! Yes, I feel overall that it's been a good year, even if harvests haven't been quite as bounteous as we hoped. And every year adds to the learning curve so I'm very hopeful for next year! (As ever!)

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  13. Your garden is so lovely, Caro. The Parsley looks so fresh..

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    1. Thank you Yang - and welcome to my blog! Lovely to see you here and thanks for your very kind comments. Yes, I've always been very lucky with the herbs that I grow and parsley is so useful in the kitchen, such a wonderful intense green!

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Caro x

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