One success: this will be the first year I grow aubergines from seed successfully! The one on the right was the flower photographed a couple of weeks ago. Despite subdued temperatures, it's swelling gradually. They're a narrow-fruited variety called 'Little Fingers'.
The weather continues to disappoint, but I can't let it get me down too much. That's how it is here. I am getting weary of the reaction from people further south though - I don't envy their intense drought this year, but they keep commiserating with my forlorn tweets by trying to reassure me that it's not my fault things aren't going as well as I'd like, it's the weather's. Well, in a sense that's true, but not everyone has the same weather! Here in Scotland we did indeed have a hot, dry spell in May and June. But July turned back to normal conditions, and August has been dismal so far. So I can't take solace in there having been nothing I could do - nor do I get any comfort from other people's disasters. This is normal weather here, and I erred by trying some things - maybe the outdoor sweetcorn will be okay, but who knows, but half the fennel has bolted, and I was unwise to try growing it outside. There's a balance - cabbages, lettuce, kale, carrots, swede, spinach, brussels sprouts, leeks, parsnips, peas, maybe even runner beans will do fine in this. But tomatoes, aubergines, and peppers - even under glass - will not thrive, and winter squash, courgettes, French and shelling beans, and the aforementioned fennel and sweetcorn may not. Growing a range of crops is insurance as much as anything, and it is perhaps naive to imagine everything, or even most things, will thrive in a given year, but it is still sad to think I must wait another nine to twelve months for some of them.
I've not been doing as much outside either. It's no fun working when everything is sodden, and I'm running low on compost again. But I have sown more seeds, including overwintering onions, and turned the first compost heap of the growing season (I guess this was piled up in May-June), and it looked and smelled good (a clean mushroom scent). I got a new garden fork to replace the one that broke a few weeks ago, but it shattered in less than ten minutes, so that was a setback. I won't be doing much digging eventually, as I'm a convert to 'no dig', but first I have to lever out all the invading undesirables, like spiraea and excess raspberries. Strange that clumps of roots I can yank out by hand (with difficulty) can snap stainless steel tines, but I've learned that the shiniest tools aren't necessarily the strongest. It's a learning process, if nothing else...
Mixed lettuces, from the third sowing, planted where beetroot was before (older lettuces at the top, and runner beans to the right). They're pretty, mostly oak-leaved varieties, and should be less bitter than some of the ones I've grown this year, especially the dark purple 'Bijou'.
Returning to the subject of mushroom smells, I'll probably start growing my own again. I did it once before, in the winter of 2011/12, turning coffee grounds into a respectable batch of oyster mushrooms. I finally got a new espresso machine here, so I will have a ready supply of fodder for them, but also I want to try some others - button mushrooms on compost, "king stropharia" on woodchips, and shiitake and maybe chicken of the woods on a few spare firewood logs. I love that they can be grown on such disparate and otherwise not very useful materials - oysters will even grow on old books and magazines - and after you get a crop, the remains are even more amenable to composting. It's also a harvest in the cooler, wetter, darker months.
The best winter squash has grown a bit, and is now resting on a small tile to keep it dry.
In the meantime, some promising growth: the winter squash I shared a photograph of here recently continues to swell and darken. Some of the others may have aborted, but there are 8-10 scattered across the plants, so I may yet manage to get one or two through to harvest. There's a fresh flush of courgettes and summer squash, and the plants haven't yet succumbed to mildew as they usually do (the rain helps, I expect). The first aubergine (the flower was photographed here a couple of entries ago) is swelling and taking on colour. And despite my reservations, the sweetcorn have started producing male flowers - but no females yet that I can see.
As we tip into the last half of August, what must be done? Other than more clearing, which feels like a neverending task, a lot of seeds can still be sown. Overwintering brassicas, more onions, salad leaves and oriental greens, that sort of thing. Some old crops will come out - peas are pretty much finished now - and I'll replace them with new ones, probably brassicas like cabbage or cauliflower. I must choose and order next year's tulips, I want some fruit bushes and trees to go in before winter, and then it'll be onion sets and garlic. It's time to abandon any unrealised plans for this summer, and concentrate on making the next growing season more successful. An iterative process, and hopefully I can improve the outcome.
11/08 - 50g tomato, 1710g onions*
12/08 - 135g courgette
13/08 - 30g spring onions
14/08 - 95g tomatoes
15/08 - 195g courgettes, 400g peas, (~30g raspberries, 4~0g rowan berries)
16/08 - 30g lettuce, 50g tomato, 295g fennel**, 150g mangetout (~5g raspberry)
18/08 - 70g spinach beet, 10g spring onion, 175g courgette/summer squash***, less than 5g chilli****
YTD total: 13.63kg
*These were harvested in late July and dried in the greenhouse, then trimmed and weighed.
**I harvested the plants that had bolted before they flowered, they tasted good but hadn't bulked up.
***Including the first patty pans.
****Too little to be added to the total, but notably the first ripe fruit off the plant I overwintered from last year.