Harvesting. Aargh!!! All my chickens (not literally) have come home to roost with a vengeance and I’m reaping (literally) the benefits of all that earlier work in my garden, being inundated with vegetables and fruit.
But first, a quick run-through of what I did in the latter half of July. As planned, I sowed spring cabbages and have just planted them out, having made a space for them by harvesting the potatoes. It’s not an ideal location, since Brassicas are supposed to follow legumes, but in a small garden you don’t always have a choice. I also sowed radicchio, which came up, but I failed to water them at a crucial point and all but two disappeared. I’ve sown them again and will keep an eye on them this time. I took various herb cuttings but, apart from the pineapple sage, they’re showing no sign of rooting. I may have another go later on in the year.
Quite a lot of time in July was spent in protecting the fruit bushes from birds by netting them and it paid off. I ended up with 1.7 kg of redcurrants (from one bush), 2.5 kg blackcurrants (from one bush), and a staggering 6.8 kg jostaberries from two bushes. One is going to have to go! The jostaberries were under-planted with strawberries so I got a decent crop of these too (over 3 kg picked so far with more to come from a late variety). The only fruit I didn’t net was raspberries. However, in spite of some bird depredation at the edges, I still got a lot of raspberries (almost 2 kg so far and still picking). I’ve just started harvesting the early blueberries, and later in August I’ll be picking a late variety of redcurrants and also whitecurrants. There are a decent number of plums on my dessert damson so it promises to be a better crop than last year. And this year, for the first time, I’ll have apples to pick from one of my recently planted ballerina trees.
I started harvesting broccoli in July and am still picking side-shoots (over 3 kg from 14 plants). I have a massive crop of broad beans – and I don’t even like them! The peas (petit pois) are also doing well. So are the courgettes, although the stripy variety is disappointing; the flowers don’t fall off the fruit so they’re inclined to rot at the blossom end. I’m also harvesting lettuce and spring onions (which are massive now) but have finished the radish and rocket. I just dug up the Charlotte potatoes to make space for cabbages and got a decent crop. They’re still sitting in a bucket waiting for me to weigh them. The Anya potatoes, however, were disappointing – only 1.7 kg from 4 plants. (See more details in my seasonal cooking blog.) The garlic were dug up and although some had white rot I got a better crop than last year. I grew Castano this year – they seem to do the best in my soil. They’ll be available from The Really Garlicky Company in September.
Later in the month I expect to be picking cauliflowers. I can see a purple one that’s just about ready. The runner beans are forming, as are the French beans, so I’ll probably be picking those towards the end of August. The various varieties of kale look good although I’ll be keeping that to feed chickens who are eating the broccoli leaves at the moment. The outdoor cucumbers (grown in the cold frame) are doing well and forming little cucumbers. Must remember to keep watering them …
Failures in 2016
There are always failures, usually of stuff I’ve not grown before. But this year it was spinach, which I’ve grown successfully before. I eventually hoed them up and planted some spare leeks. Quite a lot of my beetroot bolted, so I don’t think I’ll get that many, and the second sowing doesn’t look encouraging. Next year I’m going to try growing them in modules as recommended by Suttons. Watch the video here. The jury’s still out on squashes and the tomatoes, both growing outdoors. I think we need a longer growing season for both (or a greenhouse!) I have aubergines in the cold frame but I doubt they’ll come to anything. I grew nasturtiums this year with the intention of adding them to salads (which I’ve not got around to) but they weren’t that attractive as plants so I won’t be growing them again.
More work to do in August
Pruning and cutting back. I’ll be pruning my ballerina apple trees to keep them compact. In addition, quite a few shrubs should be pruned after flowering, and some of mine need to be pruned quite heavily. So I’ll be cutting back the Philadelphus and Weigela to ground level. I also have a rather sick Viburnum tinus hedge which I’m proposing to cut down to the ground and allow to grow back from the stumps. It’s not recommended but I already cut down a separate bit of the same hedge and after looking seriously dead all spring it’s recovered quite well.
It’s also a time for cutting down the perennials that have gone over. That’s always a bit sad since it marks the end of summer and I’m always sorry to see the delphiniums and lupins go. My new David Austin rose, ‘Munstead Wood’ did surprisingly well although it did make a mess when the petals dropped so I was out with my secateurs at the first hint of blowsiness. It’s still flowering though, as are the dahlias I grew from seed (one of this year’s experiments). My other rather surprising success flower-wise was a box of ‘bee-mixture’ annual seeds from my local supermarket. They’re still flowering and are a delightful mixture of poppies, a sort of decorative clover, and some pink stuff I don’t recognise. The only disappointment is that the bees don’t seem that interested!
August is also when gardening catalogues start dropping through the door so I’ve already begun to think about next year, and all the things I’m going to buy – a new rose, another cistus, a scented peony, more geraniums to add to my collection, a cherry tree, a proper damson tree. The list goes on. If only my garden was bigger …