A ridiculously hot day
I was up early this morning watering from 8am, any areas that were not watered last night. The auricula theatre, front field rose border, new cornus in the field, containers, polytunnel, pumpkin patch and back garden. When I’m watering the pumpkin patch, there is a magical moment. The planting holes are all marked with a cane, this is to help me direct the hose when watering. Each squash/pumpkin is planted in a hole in the plastic black sheet so carefully directed irrigation is essential. There is a fake butterfly on a spring wire inserted into each cane. One cane has lost its butterfly and a dragonfly perches on the cane, one real dragonfly amongst a host of fake butterflies – a rather lovely sight!
I am approaching today with considerable apprehension, even at 8am, the temperature is high. My intention is to get all potentially vulnerable plants to have some sense of moisture around their roots to try to get them through this difficult day. I then went around deadheading dahlias which really do not appreciate this extreme heat, especially the big bloomed ‘dinner plate’ dahlias.
We are being visited today by one of my dearest friends, Anne, we are both bassoonists and play in the same orchestra. We spend almost all the time she is here sitting at a picnic bench in the shade under a nut tree in the orchard. We have a brief walk around the garden but the heat is unbearable, so we do not linger. By far the best place to be was the mushroom house and if this weather continues, I think I’ll move down there! We had a lovely lunch, particularly so because I didn’t have to make it! Meave made a pasta salad, which was mixed with a ‘pesto type’ sauce made from two types of basil from the polytunnel – normal large leaved basil and the small leaved Greek basil. The pasta also included the first of our cherry tomatoes. She served this with a large leafy salad with our lettuce and cucumber. For desert, we had one of Aideen’s ice cream creations – gooseberry flavour, using mainly the purple gooseberries. This was not only delicious but also a beautiful colour!
I was hoping we would have a thunderstorm at the end of the day with plenty of rain, but James really worried me by saying his weather app said no rain for a week! I think he saw the expression on my face and offered to do the watering that night whilst I prepared the dinner which I was very grateful for. Tonight’s dinner was a traditional ‘coq au vin’ making use of the first shallots and served with broccoli and new potatoes from the garden, I will cook lots of potatoes and they can be used for potato salad tomorrow. It is quite a challenge digging out potatoes from the first potato bed because the bed is full of large borage plants. I attempt to dig out the potatoes without dislodging the borage (which is permanently full of bees!) and the other companion planting of phlox, verbena and cosmos. If I am successful, this leaves a raised bed full of flowering plants much more use to the garden than bare dug over earth. I would also like to put in a word for my wonderful broccoli plants in the polytunnel which I expected to have finished weeks, if not months ago (there is a tray of basil still waiting to replace it when it is removed).These Autumn sown plants grew to a handsome size with lovely blue/grey/green leaves and each produced a central single floret and I thought that would be it. However, every time I remove a floret they re-sprout new ones and I’m still harvesting large bowls of broccoli and tomorrow is the start of August!
Melting Organ Pipes
It is still very warm today but thankfully, more cloudy and cooler than yesterday. It was so hot yesterday that some of the ‘top heavy’ organ pipes, fixed on the pumpkin patch fence, bent over with the heat!
I got off to a late start today because I was distracted by household matters. Usually, it is the other way round, the house is neglected because I’m distracted by the garden! Walking around at the start of the day it is clear that it is not just organ pipes that have been affected by the extreme heat. Several New Guinea Impatiens which I have in containers, must have not received enough water and were looking very unhappy. Also, some of the specimen begonias in the Auricula theatre had flopped. Both these plants have quite fleshy stems and require lots of water even to stand up, so this makes them very vulnerable in the hot weather. One thing I have noticed today and yesterday are the ipomea growing in the blue urns and trained on the gazebo in the paradise garden. I now understand why they are called ‘Morning Glory’ because their beautiful bell shaped flowers are all open when I walk around in the morning. Ipomea is the same family as bindweed, it is just a coloured version. There are three different shades, bright pink, pale pink and a striped lilac and they make a beautiful display but unfortunately, later in the day the flowers close.
Another pleasant discovery were the baby peacock tiger lilies. Bulbs do generally multiply and produce ‘bulblets’ which will eventually produce blooms, usually smaller versions of their parents, and today I’ve seen smaller Peacock Tiger blooms opening, still beautiful but scaled down versions of their parents.
When I start work, I continue with my weeding of the bean/onion quarter. I finish weeding the borlotti/edamame bed. I have now decided that my dwarf appearing Borlottis look close to finishing and I need to harvest and use their beans quite soon, they will make a wonderful chilli. I then weed the two leek beds (the leeks are growing well) and make a start on the runner bean bed.
I then give everything a thorough watering. Tonight’s dinner is home-made beef burgers (which include apple in their mix) potato salad with red onions- the red onions have grown beautifully this year – and mixed salad with our lettuce, cucumbers and tomato. As usual Patrick pulls a face at all the leaves on his plate but eats them up regardless!
Bites and stings!
I continue watering this morning trying to ensure no sensitive plant is left thirsty, but fortunately, after a very airless night, today feels like a more acceptable temperature. I believe that many of the beautiful plants that we are used to growing in this country are unable to cope with temperatures in the 30’s over any prolonged period of time. One day at that degree of heat is quite enough! Somebody commented on the radio today that there is an East/West divide with rainfall. The East receives far less rainfall than the West and I would definitely agree with this, and it can be problematic. After watering, I decide to dead head the Sweet Peas for probably one of the last times – I am contemplating removing them in the near future. I know I made them last longer last year and I think this is because they were planted in the Spring, I might return to that planting time next year. I then decided to remove some ragwort from the wildflower meadow that is beginning to go to seed. Ragwort is a very controversial plant, it has arrived in our meadow from our neighbouring fields, it was not sown deliberately. Common Ragwort, is a tall plant with masses of bright yellow daisy like flowers, it contains a chemical that is toxic to livestock, so farmers often attempt to eradicate it from their fields.
However, Ragwort is also a valuable plant to a host of pollinators and advice from groups such as ‘Bug Life’ is it should be left alone. It is a vital food plant form the Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar (vivid yellow/black stripes) and my Ragworts have been host to plenty of these caterpillars. I have decided on compromise…I do not have livestock on this meadow and there is no livestock in the neighbouring fields therefore now the plants have been munched by the caterpillars I will pull them up before they go to seed. There will be more next year but not too many.
After a lunch of cheese and salad sandwiches (lettuce, cucumber, tomato and red onion all from the garden), I tend to put so much lettuce in a sandwich that they are nick-named ‘bush sandwiches’! I return to my runner bean bed to continue weeding. This is proving to be a challenging task. This is a very big raised bed and it is in the area that is infested with field bindweed – field bindweed has smaller leaves and flowers than common bindweed – the flowers are pale pink and white, it has a more bushy habit than common bindweed but it still entangles things. Unsurprisingly, it has decided to climb my pole wigwams wrapping itself in and out of my runner beans…I should have got to this job earlier. If I pull too hard I risk breaking bean stalks or uprooting my cosmos companions, both of which I managed to do today! I had hoped to finish this bed and start on my beetroot bed today but this is not to be for a variety of reasons. First, I am stung, presumably by a bee on my leg. I say presumably because I never saw the bee, I just felt the pain then found the sting sticking in my thigh…I think the bee fell out of a borage plant. Also, grandad is in ‘buzzing mode’ and I keep having to take him to the toilet. Then Meave comes home from visiting her boyfriend and tells us that she has been bitten by a spider in his garden. This is quite rare, but can happen. I have been bitten by a spider once before whilst weeding and it is quite unpleasant. We are also suffering from horsefly bites, Diane in particular has a very nasty bite from this insect on her leg. Unfortunately, if you have very fair skin this horrible creature can cause a big swelling with its bite. Sadly, all of my children have sensitive skin and also spend a lot of their time sneezing loudly, they inherit terrible hayfever from their father, which is most unlucky as we all practically live outside! Tonight is ‘Borlotti bean night’…I prepare a big pot of chilli using our own onions, chillis, peppers and borlotti beans. I then intend to layer chilli with wheat tortillas and grated cheese and bake it in the oven and serve with lots of salad…Patrick will be pleased!