June and July – away and back

Container garden in a drying green
It’s been almost two months since my last gardening post. My excuse – nothing much really happening in ‘the patch’ but lots going on elsewhere:)

A two-week holiday at the end of June and beginning of July meant that I deliberately put off sowing or planting anything new. The garden and balconies had to survive without me, with only occasional watering from the neighbour (thanks Rachel!:)…

But the mini-heatwave earlier this week had me out in the garden again, counting my losses, weeding ferociously, and sowing some more. I also finally got to sorting out one of my balconies!

Here is my gardening update for June and July – starting with some vignettes from my travels.

Holiday gardening snapshots

I thought I’d start with a couple of my holiday snaps – as you can tell I can’t stay away from gardens and plants even in my travels:)

Kew’s Bees

My London favourite would have to be the Hive at Kew – it is an art installation which gives you a chance to feel a part of a bee colony. You even get to listen like a bee!

There are lots of other bee-related displays and features around, including some great little solitary bee homes in their Kitchen Garden.  These are a posher version of bamboo cane DIY numbers that Gaby talked about in our recent workshop – with a neat little window you can open to peek at the larvae growing inside!

Hinton Amptner’s veggie garden

I loved the quirky name of this National Trust property – the single-handed creation of Ralph Dutton, an English home and garden afficionado. The garden was perfectly pleasant but I would not go as far as calling it “a masterpiece of 20th-century garden design”. After all it is simply a very accomplished 1930s reconstruction in the nostalgic 1800s style…

The walled kitchen garden, on the other hand, turned out to be a classic gem. Perfectly shielded from the wind and flooded with sunshine, for a moment it made us feel like we landed in real summer (otherwise the temperature was firmly and disappointingly stuck below 20°C throughout our stay). I loved the, not in the least bit threatening, scarecrow, featuring a man and his dog. And the ingenuity of the little grapevine greenhouse with holes in the walls, allowing for the vines to be planted outside to keep their roots cool, and growing on the inside to ripen the fruits in the heat. And you should have seen the onions – the size of a baby’s head, I tell you!

South Down’s chalk meadows

These are not very ‘vegetabley’ but definitely worthy a mention! We visited several meadows during our stay and they were in full flowering swing (with equally lovely hordes of insects swinging above them). Lovely to see such biodiversity on display, including swathes of flowering orchids. And a bit of a sad reminder of how much of this meadowy goodness has been lost in post-war Britain. It’s worth fighting to get them back! 

My growing successes

Sooo – I said that there’s not been much happening in my patch. Apart from a single monster courgette plant regularly sprouting one or two fruit a week that is. The other three are waiting to pounce though, and flood me with the classic courgette glut. Soon, I hope. I have preserving plans!

After my fortnight’s holiday, I was also pleasantly surprised to find my cut-and-come-again pea sprouts happily flowering and producing fruit. I left them in place to see how well they will do in the shallow container they were planted in.

I am also quietly hopeful about the two Polish dwarf cucumbers – both are now nursing some spiky embryonic gherkins!

On the edible flower front, we have lift-off in my English marigold field. Still waiting for nasturtiums to pop but they are producing masses of foliage. Maybe I will try making a nasturtium leaf pesto in the meantime? I also had another lovely surprise with some self-sown purple poppies now creating a great display and insect feeding station in the herb bed:)

My growing …challenges?

I stubbornly continue refusing to cause chemical-induced snail and slug annihilation, and paying the price. I have a single sad runner bean survivor, now staked and looking hopeful but continuing to suffer from slug damage. Quite predictably, all of the chard and parsley herb-bed sowings also fed the snails, or else were overshadowed by the rampant nasturtiums.

But what hurt the most was the miserable harvest of the first of the early tatties  -amounting to a mere handful of tubers. About the same weight as the seed potatoes I put in! Not what I expected based on the recommendation for bag growing from RHS for the Swift variety! I am not sure what went wrong. Perhaps it was the shady position. Perhaps I put them in way too late. Perhaps it is the disappointing summer we’ve been having. Or maybe they got gotten by some disease. The latter is quite likely as the leaves wilted and died off a couple of weeks ago. They did not look late blight-stricken, like my tatties last year, so it must have been something else. I am holding off on harvest of my other earlies, lest they are equally disappointing…

Local supplements

Thankfully, other Tayport gardens have been a bit more productive and I have been lucky enough to get a nibble or two of the local produce here and there.

The Community Garden is really thriving and starting to produce a regular harvest. I got to taste the first cucumber from the polytunnel on my sandwiches and it was absolutely delicious (this is the same variety I am growing in the bags outside). And the last monster calabrese of the season went really well in a stir fry with my courgettes. There is a plan to put a produce stand outside the gates once it starts coming in so keep an eye out!

I also got some lovely lettuce from Jessie’s slug-proof copper planters, and a massive head of broccoli from Cathy’s garden.

Last week we also made a trip to take advantage of the fruit bushes at the Fruit Tree Walk’s Garvie Brae playpark, which are now covered in ripening black currants and red gooseberries. The black currants will make for a great flavoured vodka liquor. And I have plans for a delicious gooseberry cake this weekend;)

Never give up!

Now that I am back and not planning to be away for too long over the rest of the summer, I decided to sow some more seeds.

Not deterred by the earlier salad snailaggedon, I went for more leafy chard and cut-and-come again salad mixes. And of course more pea shoots, seeing that they are so oddly snail-resistant. I am starting them all off under plastic cover in the drying green but will probably transfer the lot to the balcony, to avoid the snails and keep them more handy for the kitchen.

I still have some spare bags – and more will become available after I harvest my tatties – so I am looking for some late season inspiration. What do you think I should grow?

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