Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Encouraging signs

I've never seen a marigold this colour before - it's lovely!

It's been good weather again. As if to remind us what the summer can be about, warm sunshine has beaten rain more often than not this past week, although the wind hasn't been insubstantial - even today, despite a forecast of a few miles per hour, I watched the washing bounce back and forth on the line. Not enough to discourage me from working outside though - and I need to, as some of that wind has damaged the roof of my new greenhouse (as I mentioned in the last post).

But pottering around the garden, although the overriding impression was of semi-wilderness, the weeds having reclaimed whichever corners I haven't spent much time in recently, there was a sense of impending fecundity. Wildlife thrives here, mostly because I've never stripped back all the wild plants, and hopefully also because I don't use pesticides. I found a common blue butterfly, which was unperturbed by me shoving a camera lens close to it. There were bees, hoverflies, and other unidentifiable insects (I find most very tough to name). The Calendula plants that I grew from seed and squeezed in wherever I could back in the spring are still flowering their heads off - all colours from pale peach and lemon to deep orange and gold. The grape vines on the terrace need controlling, but are growing rampantly - excellent news both for my plans for a vine-covered pergola, and for the batch of stuffed vine leaves I'm intending to make in the next few days.

The warm sunshine makes everything glow of course. And when the breeze isn't too strong (it's calmed down since this morning), the scent of Buddleia, lavender, and mint (in the front garden), and roses (in the back) fills the air, and adds to the sensual pleasure of the space. And there are flowers! The roses are having a better year than I can remember - older plants are thriving, and ones I put in last year look just as well established (I love roses, by the way - they are my absolute favourite ornamental plant, although they have a culinary use too, of course). Nasturtiums and Cosmos (grown from seed like the Calendula), and lavender are also in full bloom, although the garden isn't quite a riot of flowers.

But colour is appearing elsewhere. The runner beans have been flowering for a couple of weeks - but as yet, no pods have formed. This is a worry, as I've never had success with them in the past, either - so much for being an allegedly "easy" crop. I chose 'Painted Lady', which is the best variety according to several sources. At least its scarlet-and-white flowers are pretty - still, I'm not giving these plants space in future if I get no crop this time (it was really my fault last year, but this time I've put them in a large container, fed them, and given them very tall supports). The French beans have also started flowering - but today I saw a tiny pod, so some beans should be on the menu this year, at least. The colour I am most excited about, however, is - tomatoes! As if in response to my concerns the other day, some of them have started taking on colour at last - the final step in the long process. One 'Jaune Flammée' (though not the oldest or largest) has turned yellow-green, although it still feels hard. Up on the terrace, a 'Gardener's Delight' I stuck in one of the large planters (where the peas had been) has a single, tiny, bright red fruit (again, it didn't feel quite ripe, so I left it for now). I will harvest the first fruit today though - but indoors. The windowsill beat them all - though I'm going to compost all the remaining plants there (squash, aubergines, tomatoes, basil), as they have been baked, infested by greenfly, and neglected to the point of death anyway. I also need the space for all the autumn vegetables.

How long before this is bright orange and ready to pick?

This should be ready in a few days.

On which note, I have built a raised bed. I had two planks of sturdy, tanalised wood waiting to help reinforce the side fence, but I decided to put them to better use and make a rectangular frame to raise the soil level in the front garden a little. I was inspired by my friend, with the greenhouse tomatoes I envy, whose fiancé has built just such a raised bed in their back garden. They have a major horsetail infestation, and lined the bottom of the new bed with weed-suppressing membrane. I don't have any such fiesty weeds, but I do have problems with couch grass in the front. I was digging it out bit by bit, but this way is much quicker and should stop the grass coming back if I miss any of the roots. Well, we will see. I wanted to try out my new circular saw, so I cut the timbers at 45º so there were no cut ends facing outwards (which should retard rotting). I will staple the anti-weed fabric and then place it over a section of the front garden - I'll remove as many of the weeds as possible first, though. I have about 45 litres of homemade compost, to which I'll add a little sand and some sieved garden soil. I may add a second layer of timber, either this week or in a few months. At its current depth, I can grow leafy crops, turnips, beets, and kohl rabi, but probably not carrots or long radishes. Either way, it should push things forward a lot - the front garden will be mostly vegetables by the autumn, if all goes to plan.

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