Two days of almost solid rain, has had the usual dramatic affect on my garden, that watering by hose pipe, sprinkler or watering simply can’t achieve. Everywhere I look the lush green of healthy plants can be seen, although, as we head into the last month of summer, this is now interspersed with the yellowing of plants, past their prime which even the magical powers of Ma Natures rain can’t revive.
The yellowing and dying back of foliage isn’t always a negative sign though, especially with my potatoes. I see the King Edwards changing colour and I rejoice because whilst the yellow isn’t the most attractive sight, it holds the promise of treasure to be found underground …… if all has gone well that is. That’s the thing with crops such as these, until you’ve dug for the hidden treasure, you can never be sure whether it’ll be the pure gold or fools gold you’re going to find, if you know what I mean.
Onions are another plant where the dying back of the foliage heralds the approaching harvest and I look at my onion bulbs this year and can’t quite believe how wonderful they are. Having never successfully grown onions before, either from sets or seed, this year I took great care to prepare the bed and to plant the sets the exact recommended spacing apart and this appears to have paid dividends. Although one or two of the onions are still relatively small, the others are most definitely somewhere between lemon and orange size in terms of girth and I can’t wait for harvest time. I suspect these may prove to be very strong and I may have to invest in protective goggles when chopping them. Sturon is a variety I will be actively seeking out next year.
The main Mangetout stand is a tale of two halves. The Golden Sweet plants are already on their way out, their green leaves paling away to yellow and I have had to carefully remove a couple of plants from amongst the still green and productive leaves of the Oregon Sugar Pod which is vastly more prolific and longer lasting. I still have more Oregon seedlings to plant out this weekend and so the supply of crunchy pods should last into late September but over the last two seasons, the Golden Sweet have proved disappointing in terms of yield and I may not choose to grow these next year, although the taste is sweeter than the Oregon and is a firm favourite with the Mudlets.
I love the way my two varieties of Leek look, sitting next to each other in the long bed. Even at this small size you can see the difference in the colour between the yellow Jaune de Poitou and blue Bleu de Solaise Leeks, a difference which should become even more noticeable as they grow and thicken out, adding much needed interest to what will be a tired and empty looking garden, in a month or so.
The pumpkins and squashes are making me wait with only the Sugar Pie pumpkins producing a significant number of fruit so far (6 last count). There are a couple of newly set winter squashes growing along the fence, a Jack O’Lantern which isn’t growing as quickly as I would have liked and possibly two Invincible pumpkins, both newly set and not out of the woods yet. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen pumpkins and squash appear to set, start to swell and then just stop, so my fingers are crossed that the pumpkins continue to grow and swell. There are signs of upcoming female flowers across the squash and pumpkins, so we may yet have a bumper harvest.
Tomatoes, on the other had, we have in abundance and the first of these are reddening up nicely. I am particularly pleased with the performance of the bush varieties I planted into my home made hanging baskets, all off which are heavily laden with fruit and should provide a plentiful supply of sweet red treats for the Mudlets in just a few weeks time. That said, there are tomatoes across all the cordon varieties too, although none of these have started to change colour as yet but a lot of these are outside and more heavy rain may yet do for the crop, if blight were to strike for example and so I am hoping for a nice blend of hot sunshine and refreshing rain, if Ma Nature would just play the game.
Across the side fence the runner beans are finally romping away, intent on covering the entire expanse, providing a nice splash of green against the blue paint. They’ve been a bit slow off the mark and the first clumps of flowers failed to set (too warm possibly) but the first of the beans have now set. The french beans (3 varieties) have also been a bit slow away but they have at least been supplying a small handful of mixed beans every few days and I hope that they will now be delivering greater numbers of pods for us. I made a real effort not to grow too many plants this year, as we have found that whatever method I use to prepare them for freezing, the beans just don’t freeze well and I don’t want to create a glut which we then have to throw away.
As I walk around my garden I am heartened to see that the sweet corn plants grown from seed saved from a cob last year, have pretty much all started to produce male flowers and the corn ears are also starting to make an appearance. There’s something odd happening with some of the plants though: something has destroyed the male flowers on half a dozen of the plants, so that when they have opened out, there are no pollen carriers on them and so I have been hand pollinating the silks on the ears, using pollen from plants some distance away which have not been munched on. Another oddity this year, is that 2 or 3 of the ‘male’ flowers have grown with silks and kernels attached. I’ve never seen this before and I’m waiting to see if these plants grow normal ears along their length as well – very curious.
The mini pop sweet corn have also started to flower and have a lovely pink flower emerging from the top of the plant. I’ve only ever tried to grow these once before with little success in terms of yield but these plants look strong and healthy and so this year we may have another home grown treat to enjoy with our meals.
Opting to sow the parsnips and one set of carrots in the normal beds, instead of the raised beds, seems to have paid off. I have already taken some of the carrots as thinnings which have produced tasty, finger sized offerings for the table and the remaining roots are looking impressive, judging from the girth of the carrot tops I’ve had to cover with soil on a regular basis. Carrots are something that we eat a lot of and so I did sow a second set of them in one of the raised beds and these are also looking pretty good at the moment, as are the lettuces that were sown with them. Unfortunately, the beetroots aren’t doing quite so well but we shall see if they come right. It’s hard to say how successful the parsnips will be until we get around to pulling them in October/November but if the quality, quantity and density of the foliage is anything to go by, we may have the best parsnips for several years. As with the potatoes, the success of the carrots and parsnips can only truly be judged once they have been dug out, as it is only then that I can check for signs of pest or disease damage but if the foliage is looking good, then I think I am safe in assuming that the root will be in good condition to but only time will tell.
The greenhouse plants are doing pretty spectacularly at the moment to, with a pleasing number of sweet peppers across the 18 or so plants and as for the chillies ….. well they have literally taken over the greenhouse and promise a very good harvest, all being well, for the pickled chillies that Mud loves and the volcanic strength sweet chilli jam I made last year. I won’t be taking their continuing good health for granted though because experience has taught me that conditions in the greenhouse can soon lead to rapid spread of pests and diseases which can wipe out an entire crop in days.
So there you have it. As we progress steadily through the summer, the garden continues to give up its’ bounty and I continue to feed and water, weed and trim and take solace in the fruits of my labour.