Well, I certainly know what the biggest job in my garden will be in June – watering. We haven’t had any rain since the 23rd of May and there’s not much prospect of any to come in the forthcoming week. So my garden, with its light sandy soil, is getting drier and drier. Of course this happens every year, but not usually so early and I really see the effects of climate change because we seem to be getting drier summers, if not warmer ones. I record the temperature as well as rainfall (yes, I know, a bit anal), and I see that we had temperatures as low as 2 ºC in May while the maximum was only 23 ºC. It rained on 8 days – a total of only 17 mm of rain (in my rain gauge – don’t know how accurate it is.) And this is very low compared to the average for the Dundee area for May of 48 mm – and a lot less than May 2015. (Read more about climate change in Linda’s recent blog.)
So, given the lack of rainfall and low night temperatures, things in my garden have been reluctant to get going and I’ve had a few failures. The most annoying one of these was spinach which refused to come up (too cold?). I sowed more seed and only a few more came up – in contrast to the seed I sowed in a pot, which gave almost 100% germination. So I’m not sure what went wrong – too dry at a crucial phase? – seedlings eaten by slugs? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting a spinach crop this year. The other failure was my new wild rocket (red-veined dragon’s tongue) which didn’t come up at all. I knew it could be slow but this was ridiculous, so when I saw some nice healthy plants of exactly the right variety in a garden centre I nabbed them. The dill experiment didn’t work (sowing in a pot and planting out) and most of the seedlings have vanished, so I won’t be trying that again. The other ‘failure’ was my cucumbers which didn’t come up. I sowed more seeds, which still didn’t come up, bought new seed and sowed those and blow me if the whole lot didn’t germinate in the end. So I’ve got far too many cucumbers and will be donating some of them to the PLANT poly-tunnel, although I’ll probably grow more plants than usual this year since the ‘patio aubergines’ (another experiment) I was planning to put in the cold frame are refusing to grow bigger than tiny seedlings so I doubt they’ll come to much. The outdoor tomatoes are also a disaster, probably due to the low overnight temperatures, and are small and sickly looking. They’ve a month to get their act together or they’re out. I’ve plenty of stuff waiting for the space they’re taking up. There are no passengers in my garden!
However, these are just a few failures and most of the things I sowed or planted out in May are doing OK if not spectacularly. Courgettes and squashes are out under plastic domes but growing so well I’ll have to take the protection off in the next week. I sowed beans at the end of May in pots and they came up quickly, as predicted, and I’ve planted them out. They won’t get going until it warms up but they look OK at the moment. Basically, therefore, almost everything that I normally sow has been sown. I just have to remember a couple of late things – radicchio (another of this year’s experiments) and spring cabbage – both of which will be sown at the end of June or early July. I’ve also planted most things out – just the chard to go (waiting for a space), black kale and sprouting broccoli. The courgettes will grow slowly to begin with, so I’ve intersown some more rocket, some salad greens, radish and beetroot. I’ve also sown some peas in a wide pot for pea-shoots. You need a lot of peas for this, but I buy marrow-fat peas from the supermarket and get 90% germination.
So that doesn’t leave much for me to do except the endless watering. Fortunately I have a brilliant automatic watering system which I can thoroughly recommend – a well-trained husband. You can probably get one from Amazon. Thanks to his sterling efforts I can spend my time wandering about the garden admiring it, since at the moment it looks stunning. OK, a few flowers have gone over (the camassia were particularly good this year), but most things are either flowering now, or just about to. I collect hardy geraniums and just love watching all the different species come out one by one.
One advantage of the low rainfall is that the weeds aren’t growing yet and nor do there seem to be that many snails around. I try not to use slug pellets except in very limited circumstances (eg, in a pot of hostas), and instead collect them and feed them to the chickens who just adore snails. The other ‘pests’ I have problems with are blackbirds, who’d dig up my entire garden in the search for worms if they could, throwing away seedlings and damaging roots in the process. I’ve already lost half a row of beetroot and radish to them, so now anything vulnerable is protected with green plastic mesh. It’s not lovely, but it works. You’d think a cat would be a deterrent but he spends too much time sleeping on the job.
One task I’m looking forward to in June is harvesting the first of my produce. Actually, I’ve already been pulling up radish and cutting rocket. I’ve had overwintering chard to pick and am about to start on the spring cabbage, which I’m going to have to eat on a daily basis since I need the space for this year’s chard. The spring onions will be ready to harvest in a couple of weeks and I may get some broccoli by the end of the month, and maybe I can even harvest the garlic. I still have some garlic left from the 2015 crop, so if I can make it last until the 2016 crop is ready that will mean I’m self-sufficient in garlic!!
So June in my garden is a time of anticipation, for admiration, and for standing back while nature does its thing – with a little help from me, the cat and the automatic watering system, of course!