So far, this year, it has felt like I haven’t actually done much gardening. I must have done something, to be picking flowers and harvesting produce but most work has been snatched in between the torrential rain or with me huddled in my shed sowing seeds. There have been very few completely dry days and two rain-free days in a row have only existed in my imagination. But what’s this, the clouds have parted and a golden glowing orb that I believe is the sun is actually there, in the sky.
It appears, for now at least, that the jet stream, responsible for the worst summer in the UK since anyone bothered started to record these things, is on the move. With the first predictably dry weekend coming up it will no doubt mean a flurry of barbecue activity and the baring of inappropriate amounts of flesh, despite temperatures struggling into the low twenties. For me, it finally means the opportunity to get out and tackle all those jobs that have been building up. I’ve already managed to clip my yew cones in the front garden, that had started to look a bit too shaggy, with fresh, new growth, resembling octopus arms, reaching out into the garden. The box balls in the back garden need a similar trim.
The list of jobs feels a little overwhelming but at least I know I can spread them out over several days rather than frantically trying to get lots done in the short dry spells between the longer periods of rain that has been gardening so far this year.
Yesterday, I finally got round to moving my leeks to their final growing positions. Fortunately, harvesting my Charlotte spuds has freed up some ground, so they’ve gone in there. It was my first opportunity to use the wooden dibber that was in my stocking last Christmas. Thank you Wellyman, it worked a treat!
There is some debate as to how to plant up leeks. The traditional way is to trim the roots and then trim the green shoots before placing in a deep hole. Some believe this method is used to make it easier to get the leeks and their roots into the hole and if you’ve cut the roots you need to reduce the stress on the leek by reducing the green growth, too. Others think that root pruning like this encourages the formation of more roots allowing the plants to search for more nutrients and become healthier plants. Last year was my first year growing leeks and I just plonked them in the holes with no trimming at all and I produced perfectly good leeks. The RHS doesn’t recommend any trimming and suggests that if you have problems getting the leeks’ roots into the hole then dipping them in water first can help. It does. Once the leeks are in the holes it’s important not to back-fill but to water in around them instead. The water will pull down some soil into the hole to hold the leek upright. This is how the long blanched stems are achieved without getting soil into the core of the leek.
There’s more seed sowing to do for crops to take us into the autumn and I need to pot up all the seedlings on my window sill. If your harvest has been disappointing so far this year due to the weather it’s not too late to give some crops a try. If we do get some good weather between now and November it’s still possible to resurrect something from the growing year. Dwarf French beans, cavolo nero, endive, carrots and lettuce will all produce well into September and beyond.
In August, I’m sowing some spring greens and various packets of salad leaves, such as orientals, that would bolt if sowed earlier in the year. Thanks to a great tip from Charles Dowding, that I picked up on his salad growing course, I’ll be sowing chervil and coriander in August. I always thought coriander needed warmth but then never managed to grow it as it always ran so quickly to seed. Apparently it, and chervil, much prefer this later sowing time. And, if you sow an early pea variety that can cope with cooler temperatures, you can have a ready supply of peashoots up to Christmas.
I harvested the shallots on Wednesday and they’re in my cold frame so their skins can dry, ready for storing. In their place went my pathetic florence fennel plants. This is my second year of trying. Last year, they were all got by slugs. This year I’m left with 5 plants, which isn’t a great haul and at the moment they’re looking decidedly weedy. I love fennel but it’s notoriously temperamental, bolting at the slightest opportunity which doesn’t fill me with confidence, especially with such topsy-turvy weather but I’m determined not to be defeated by them, well not yet anyway.
All this and I haven’t even got round to thinking about tackling the back garden which has taken on a
dishevelled billowy appearance and I really need to look into how to prune my new espalier apple tree, since July is the best time to do this job. I’m feeling a little exhausted thinking about it all. Tea and a biscuit I think, first, before the wellies go back on and I embark on some topiary.