Drip down, oh heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness!*
If you hadn’t heard, it’s been hot lately. Hot and dry, and in my neck of the woods it hadn’t rained in something like nine million weeks until a feeble downpour on Friday night, followed by a flash torrential downpour for about half an hour on Saturday morning. And now, on the day of our lord, it is consistently chucking it down in real British style and the summertime balance has some hope of being restored.
In my last vaguely religious overtone for this post, gardeners everywhere have been praying hard for this and allotment types are currently wondering if they were taken seriously when they offered up the soul of their next born Labrador in return for some wet stuff.
Because if you grow green things (other than cacti) you need regular water and rain water is generally a lot better for plants than tap water due to lower fluoride and chlorine levels. When the water butts run dry we still have our taps but when there is such consistent lack of rain there is something that comes in hand with watering our green spaces: Guilt. Guilt because ground water is needed for larger scale crops than our little carrot patch and general boring human activities. Guilt because a potential nationwide shortage is more problematic than dried out petunias. I have spent many a sweaty evening recently sneaking to my outside tap and running it ever so slowly in the hopes that people wouldn’t hear me filling up the watering can. Again.
Then with guilt comes defiance, as best represented by Aunti P, one of my many gardening info mines, who declared when discussing our lawns last weekend ‘Well I’m sorry, but we’ve been watering.’
I have to say that I’ve been pretty restrictive in my watering in the last six weeks, as much because I’m tight as for my concern for local ground water stocks but let’s not talk about excessive water charges here (there’s a reason they are call the Water Board).
The first casualty was The Lawn, which is basically now The Straw. We have let it die a dusty death under the assurance that it will bounce back in the autumn. We did try that whole thing of reserving washing up/veg rinsing water from the sink but frankly that was a faff and made exactly bugger all difference. I’ve kept my pots and edible plants watered, conservatively, most evenings, with a good hose soak for the pear trees and beds once a week.
The excess sun caused the rocket and most of my herbs to bolt almost overnight and I’ve not bothered regrowing these for this year. Potted rosemary and peppermint as well as a very small patch of sage in the shady patch next to the fence are doing brilliantly and they are on the every-other-day water list. Other unlikely drought triumphs have been the radishes and beetroot that I’ve been growing in small trough containers, possibly because they hold water reasonably close to the roots for long enough that the plants can suck it up. I also have to add that there has been a serious reduction in critters out there since the rain went away so they have had a chance to get some serious leaf growth. French breakfast radishes have done really well as have some ‘rainbow’ radishes which grew very big very quickly and were really hot in taste despite being ironically bright white. The beetroot are currently as big as oranges and soon to be harvested.
Less successful have been the carrots, tomatoes and squash plants. The tomatoes barely flowered but thanks (I think) to a weekly feed and some harsh leaf clipping they are currently showing lots of late and small but plump green fruit-. These are this year’s Garden Babies and are receiving constant love, attention and instagram updates. The carrots (heritage and nantes 5) have reasonably healthy looking leaves but are not growing that much beneath the soil.
Three out of six butternut squash plants have survived and one of them has fairly healthy flowers at the moment, so there’s still hope there for the autumn. The onions had a similar survival rates and for every fat and tasty bulb that made it there was a sad and withered one nearby.
I had a grand total of three broad beans before the stalks died off, though that is more likely to be due to the harsh winter than the summer conditions. I’ve dried these out to use for next year’s plants.
We had ten raspberries. Ten. They were SUPER tasty though, really intense and sweet, so I think the plant is good but the care and position might need reviewing for next year.
The courgettes got totally *&%£ed by the heat and the dry and are very dead. RIP courgettes.
The gooseberries are now past cropping (which was bloody wonderful) and the rhubarb has been bountiful too, though is starting to look pretty anaemic as the season winds down. I’ve stopped harvesting it for now and am getting ready to mulch it up for the autumn- which basically means feeding and protecting hub of the plant so it can survive the winter and come back strongly next spring.
The bonus news on all of this is of course that it’s too dry for some weeds, and since my mass daisy patch attack earlier in the spring the weeding efforts have not been required. They will of course return now that we’ve had some precipitation and literally eight minutes into the rain this morning I discovered five bastard snails in one of my pots. Five. The slimeys really didn’t die off, they were just hiding.
Much as I’ve moaned about the heat and my dead cucurtbits, it’s been something of a relief to not have had to battle the weeds and cut the grass every ten minutes and the lack of salads and fresh basil seem a fair price to pay for this. Plus, researching how to nurse my tomatoes through a drought lead me to lots of other tom-tips that I’d never have found otherwise. I also have to say that I have spent so much time this summer in my garden just enjoying being in the garden. That is reading books and sitting in the sun and not being stressed about weeding, pruning and de-bugging everything. The rhubarb vodka stocks have probably helped this too.
So what’s next? Other than ranting about the slugs and snail I will be mostly singing a sweet development lullaby to the tomatoes and keeping an eye on the chard seedlings which are now coming up. With the right love those will give us fresh greens through the autumn and winter. I’m trying some late spuds in various containers around the garden which will hopefully avoid the blight areas from last year. Fingers crossed.
*Pinched from Isaiah 45:8