July Garden Update

April and May were sunny and dry, and I got going with the veg a bit earlier this year thanks to a new pair of windowsill propagators. But the tail end of June and into July has been cooler and very windy, so a few plants haven’t been entirely happy. We’ve had plenty of time to spend in the garden this year, oddly enough (!) so no excuses!

We’ve certainly had some successes. Topmost in my mind being the brassicas – I planted Cavolo Nero and Kale Red Russian, and protected them under a ‘tent’ of fine mesh nylon – much finer than we’ve used before. Although the construction looks a bit messy I was determined those butterflies would not get in! The result is fantastic – we’ve had two crops already and there’s plenty more growing strong, and not a sniff of any caterpillars. Yay! Here’s how it looked a month ago:

And now:

'fort brassica'

Peas ‘Waverex’ have been delicious, although they’re finished now. Slugs and snails have been much less of a problem this year. Even so, I’ve been putting out homemade beer traps, and they’re probably the best method I’ve found of keeping numbers down.

peas waverex

We’re growing courgettes again, one ‘Defender’ and three ‘Tromboncino’, and they’re cropping nicely. I’ve tried one Tromboncino in a pot against the fence, and although it’s quite big and leafy it hasn’t produced many full-size courgettes.

I tried growing turnips for the first time this year and although they were easy to grow, and we’ve eaten them, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the taste! Actually the best use we made of them was to mash them up with celeriac, add some fried onion, chopped cabbage and plenty of cheese, then grill – cheesy, low-GI bubble and squeak! It was delicious.

turnip crop

Salad leaves are peaking at the moment. I’ve grown a mix of Lollo Rosso, Catalogna Rossa, Merveille de Quatre Saisons, Lamb’s Lettuce, Spinach and Rocket. We have enough to eat salad every day at lunchtime. The rocket was great for a while but then it all bolted so I replaced it with spinach and more Lollo Rosso, but they’re only just coming through now (middle trough):

salad in troughs

I’ve also got basil on the go, at various stages so that there’s always some available. We had Nasturtiums growing well in pots back in May and June, and we ate some of the leaves from those, but I’ve had to get rid of most of them now as the blackfly got to them.

This year I’m growing some hotter (I hope) chillies than in previous years. They’re staying in the potting shed for now, as they tend to attract small flies and other pests you don’t really want in the house. But come the autumn they’ll have to come indoors. Some of them are rather big, like this ‘Thai Dragon’ – wonder what the fruits will be like?

chilli thai dragon

We’re still novices when it comes to tomatoes, but we’re persevering. We got a reasonable crop last year, including ‘Purple Cherokee’ although not that many fruits in the end as one plant had a bad case of bottom end rot. This year I’m experimenting by growing tomato plants in different locations. I’ve got two ‘Cherokees’ in pots against the fence, and the one in the smaller pot is doing better, with half a dozen or so fruits coming.

tomato cherokee purple

There’s another Cherokee in raised bed number 2, against the fence, and that too is doing well. There are three more in Cherokees in pots in the potting shed, together with a number of other smaller varieties. I was hoping with the roof light would make it sunny enough, but I think maybe not, as the plants inside have had a few flowers but no signs yet of tomatoes. The plant that’s the furthest on is a cherry variety called ‘Maskotka’ which we planted in a rather dry corner, but it’s produced the first fruit. I have two or three others in pots too. I think at least one of them is ‘Gold Nugget‘ which as it sounds is a yellow variety which I grew last year and it cropped well right up to September.

tomato maskotka

first tomato

I only just learnt that Maskotka is a trailing variety, which would account for it’s droopiness! Here’s someone who’s much better than me at growing Maskotkas!

As regards fruit, Nick has been getting some good crops of blackcurrants and frozen them so that we can enjoy them in the winter. We don’t seem to have a problem with birds or any other pests, we don’t put any sort of netting around the blackcurrant – then again there is only one plant! The rhubarb has been amazing this year, and we’ve had a reasonable number of strawberries. Unfortunately the blueberry bush has only produced smallish (and not very juicy) fruits this year, and I’m pretty sure it’s because it needs to be in a bigger pot. At the end of the season we’ll get it out of its pot and see if it’s worth replanting in a bigger one.

Meanwhile the flowers are lovely. The stunning Lampranthus on the pond is finished now, but here’s how it looked in June:

The Echinops (which we bought at Herstmonceux Castle last year and they were very little) are monsters. We watched them get taller and taller and wondered when they would stop – they are taller even than the Verbena Bonariensis! But now they’re flowering the bees absolutely love them, and we do too, with their perfect pompom-thistle flowers.

chinos

echinops-best

This hydrangea was a gift a couple of years ago and it used to live in a pot where it was blue… now it’s in the ground, and voila!

pink hydrangea

We struggled to buy bedding plants early on in the Spring with nurseries being closed, but we did buy online a job lot of white petunias and plenty of pelargoniums in red, orange and pink. We did then manage to get hold of some marigolds which have been really lovely, and some silver-leafed Helichrysum which I love in pots.

Here’s Antonia, our Lady of the Petunias…(with a slightly grubby nose)

And here’s the ‘little’ Achillea … another plant which came in a lot bigger than we were expecting!

achillea

A bit success story for Nick has been his dahlias. He planted nine tubers in raised bed number 1 back in March, and fortified the whole bed with wire netting and bricks! Bed 1 is the ‘bed of death’ as far as I’m concerned, as anything I’ve tried planting there just disappears (apart from the rose and the two clematis against the fence, and it’s taken them a while to get going). Slugs, snails, squirrels, even foxes have had a go, hence the chicken wire etc. We watched and waited, and as the weather warmed up we started to see signs of growth, until all nine eventually made an appearance. They withstood a bit of slug munching and have come good – they are all now either flowering or in bud. A success story!

Looking at the garden from the upper level everything looks quite different..

The only thing really struggling at the moment is the lawn, which is looking a little patchy and brown from the dry Spring. But we’ll sort it out, I’m sure.

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