Bank Holiday catch up.

The garden is at its best this time of year with just about all of the late summer flowers jostling for their space in the borders. The yellows and oranges are really singing out and as always the borders are filled with bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Not one for tempting fate, but this year has been the best summer we have had for a while, and despite being on the dry side the plants have just about hung in there. A few weeks ago I did have to cut back the Knautia as it was suffering quite badly from mildew, but overall the plants are surviving quite well, I put this down to not molly codling them. After all as I work full time I don’t have the time to pander to the gardens needs. I try to plant any new additions to the garden in spring once the soil temperature is rising but the air temperature is still cool enough to give the plants chance to get their roots down. Then they only get watered for the first few weeks. The best bet is to give them a soaking say once a week rather than a sprinkling of water every day.  That way you encourage them to get their roots down deep otherwise they will stay near the surface and this will not be beneficial in the long term as in a summer such as this the plants would rely on a regular water source to survive.  I prefer to grow my plants hard and spend my time enjoying the garden and deadheading a plant or two. Speaking of which, the lavender has had a clip over recently to remove all the spent flowering stems. You need to be careful with lavender not to cut back too far as new growth will not grow from older wood.

Having spent the bank holiday away from home on our return there were one or two jobs that needed doing in the kitchen garden.  The onions have now finished and these have been dug up and left on the greenhouse staging to dry. I did initially have them drying in the sun, but as a dark cloud passed overhead I thought better of it. The last of the turnips were harvested as were some beetroot, courgettes, spring onions and runner beans. The celeriac looks like an improvement on previous attempts of growing as they are showing signs of the roots swelling, but not much, only time will tell whether we will have more success this year.  A further handful of peas resulted from leaving the plants standing longer than usual, these have now been cut down and composted. They had been standing there for so long that the tiny nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots had already broken down into the soil. In the greenhouse the tomatoes are steady away with all plants bearing fruit, albeit still green. Just to one side of the greenhouse are the autumn raspberries and when these were first put in I was under the impression that these only ever grew to four feet and needed little support. Ours must grow six feet and are a little rebellious. After picking the first ripened fruits I was covered in scratches along the length of my arms. I have to control them every year and this year is no exception. I have put two canes in place at either end with a further cane horizontal half way up the overall height. This appears to have curtailed their need to sprawl across the pathway so hopefully I can get to the fruit as they ripen without all of the scratches.



I do like the gentle buzzing of bees and there have been a reasonable number visiting the garden of late. I have tried to identify the different species, but unfortunately the majority do not stay still long enough for me to get a good look.  It has also been noticeable that they vary significantly in size, with some of the bees being reasonably large.

The bees are currently enjoying the flowering raspberry canes, Alliums, Lavender, Heleniums, Echinacea, Knautia and Monarda.  They appear to be staying well clear of the Persicari this year, but that said it has received great interest from a number of wasps.

As the night starts to draw in, the larger variety of the bees seem to find a rest in the garden for the night. Their favourite place tends to be clinging to underneath the allium heads upside down. I have got this species down to be the cuckoo bee, but I couldn’t tell you any more than that.


A productive garden.

We have had quite a lot of heavy downpours over the last couple a weeks, and yet the temperature has remained reasonably warm. Although it is a far cry from the bar-b-que weather we were starting to grow accustomed to, the flowers and vegetables in the garden will probably not complain. For those plants that were starting to struggle from the lack of water, a sigh of relief could almost be heard as the growing conditions became more favourable. As the lavender and roses come to an end the garden begins to warm up with the hot colours of the crocrosmia, rudbeckias and heleniums.  On the opposite side of the border the more subtle colours of the monardas, echinaceas and persicaria are also in full flower. Despite our bee hive coming to an end, there are still plenty of bees buzzing around enjoying the garden as much as we are.

In the kitchen garden the leeks are finally underway and growing well, whilst the onions look like they have just about given up hope, albeit a month early. The peas have long since finished and we should now be enjoying the climbing beans, if it wasn’t for the snails! Earlier in July I did sow a batch of dwarf beans just in case and these are now almost ready for planting out. I will get a decent crop of green beans if it is the last thing I do, Sunday roast just isn’t the same with only four of them! The courgettes are finally growing well and I am even trying to grow an autumn squash in the greenhouse below the tomatoes, which are also now starting to produce fruit. Hopefully these will do better than last year.

In the midst of the kitchen garden I am growing a tower of sweetpeas. Undeterred by last year’s failure I decided to give these a go again this year. They have been a complete success and I am picking a bunch of sweetpeas every other day for the house. They smell divine.

A bite to eat.

On checking on how the cabbages were doing I noticed that something had been having a nibble at the outer leaves. It wasn’t just the outer leaves that had been nibbled, but something had tunnelled straight through the heart of my cabbage. On closer inspection I found a big, fat, caterpillar trying its best to stay out of sight. I was not impressed. Every year I cover the brassicas with insect proof mesh and every year a caterpillar or two always seems to find its way inside and create a catastrophe. Ok I might be exaggerating a little here, but when I only have enough room to grow a handful of cabbage, and I really do mean five or six, losing just one or two is quite a significant number. I ended up tossing the remains of the cabbage on the compost heap, along with the caterpillar. After hunting down and removing a further two caterpillars, the bed was re-covered with the netting.

As I turned my attention to tidying the flower border at the back of the garden I could hear a rustling of leaves. The sound was coming from underneath the hedge and when I bent down to see where the noise was coming from I came face to face with a baby blackbird. With no hesitation the bird hopped out in front of me and started to peck around the area I had cleared minutes earlier. Feeling a little sorry for the birds efforts in finding a bite to eat I retreated to the compost bin and scooped up one of the caterpillars that I’d chucked in earlier. I offered this to the baby blackbird who promptly ate it before flying off to the call of its parent nearby.
I would like to point out that I don’t make a habit of sending caterpillars to their doom by feeding them to the birds. This was a one off occurrence and as this seems to have been a particularly good year for butterflies, given the number I’ve seen on my lavender alone, I hope you will understand why I had no sense of guilt in doing so.

We need to provide more plants in our gardens that benefit bees and butterflies, and in doing so know that we are doing our bit for nature.