The best laid plans do not always come to fruition! Gardening is a great leveller. Whether you are growing on an allotment, in a window box or own a huge private estate, nature always has the upper hand – and that is exactly as it should be.
I’m a professional kitchen gardener, garden writer and teacher, I’m reasonably experienced (10 years professionally, a few more decades as a hobby gardener) and know how to grow great veg but life gets in the way, disasters happen and the weather, as always, is unpredictable.
Most of my garden is growing beautifully I am happy to say, I’ve shared photos and updates of my successes on the blog and social media but things have gone wrong too!
Problems help to keep me on my toes, gives a sense of perspective and empathy for others in the same boat, and offers interesting (and frustrating!) challenges to overcome. Gardening reminds us of the importance of flexibility, being open to exploring new ways of doing things or making gentle tweaks to our current way of growing. It can bring us down to earth, literally, with a bump.
It has been unusually hot and dry for weeks and weeks. I actually felt quite excited a few days ago when it was cool enough to need to pop a pair of socks on for a few hours in the morning, but the heat is back now. I love the sun, I love being warm, but it has been too hot in the afternoons to work outside for me and so everything has to be squashed into the morning and late evening. And I don’t have a swimming pool 🙂 Some cool water to swim in during the afternoons would help.
There simply has not been enough time in the day to get everything done.
Please admire my beautiful bed of agretti and carrots…. Weeks of dry weather in a bed which could only be watered once a week (due to location and time restraints) has meant zero germination. The agretti in the photo was raised in modules at home, where I could water, and planted as a border for the seeds I had sown. After rain – finally! – on Sunday resulted in some germination.
3 carrot seedlings…
It’s a start. Hopefully more will decide to follow suit.
The high temperatures and lack of rain has meant that some new plantings have simply died within days of going in. Others I had to decide not to put in for that reason. Others need watering at least once a day, sometimes twice. (These are new plantings or pots, established plants are fine).
Usually I would water new seedlings in once, perhaps a top up a few days later, but that’s it. On the positive side, the compost mulch has meant that established plants have not needed too much extra watering – mainly beans at the allotment and of course the polytunnel. I’ve watered the sweetcorn twice since planting, for example and the main crop potatoes once.
Unfortunately I lost all of my next plantings of brassicas, chard, beetroot, lettuce and herbs just a few days before they were ready to go in. Some hungry sparrows flew into my greenhouse and ate the lot. I bought more brassicas from Organic Plants (a small family run UK company) because it’s a bit too late to re-sow those and have sown everything else again.
It’s too hot to close the greenhouse doors of course, so new sowings are under these sparrow proof covers on a table under the old apple tree. They also offer some shade. Fine whilst the seedlings are tiny but I’ll use enviromesh after pricking out to prevent legginess.
Spring’s gorgeous blossom suggested abundant harvests but all of my potted fruit trees have shed significant fruit. This quince is down to two fruit now and the medlar has dropped almost everything – this is a dry fruit that is going to drop off. It was growing so well but eventually the dry weather became too much for the little tree.
Watering as I’ve already mentioned has become time consuming. My potted garden, seedlings and new plantings needed regular watering. It’s not so bad for plants in the ground, I’ve only watered at the allotment a few times in two months, for example.
Watering can also be dangerous! This is my lovely blue salvia, cut off in its prime when the hose got wrapped around it. Another day a few weeks ago, the hose caught round a solid object, yanking me so hard that I injured my back. This caused shooting pains in my lower back and down my leg, making it difficult to work in the garden or write because everything other than lying flat moaning sorrowfully, hurt. Another day I caught my foot on the hose, fell and wrenched an old ankle injury making me limp painfully for two days!
And yes you’ve guessed it, it all meant more time wasted….
I had planned during the late winter to dig out a path made from bricks which leads to the polytunnel to increase growing space. We had made the path 17 years ago for the children, it led to the lawn (now no more, as the polytunnel is on that space). It had become overgrown and weedy, we didn’t use it either as another path alongside the washing line which leads to the shed, polytunnel and greenhouse is much preferred by us all. So increasing my growing space there is a great plan, I decided. This was delayed by The Beast’s snow. So in the spring I covered the weeds with card to kill them off at least and have one less job, thinking I’ll be able to do that job in late May or June.
It is still there…. I’m re-covering the card which has disintegrated because I know there’s no way I’ll find the time for this job now until the autumn. It’s too hot for such a task too. So here’s the re-covering job under way (and still not finished because I had to stop to do something else and then go to work, then a work trip to Ireland and then ….) I remove the sticky labels, tape etc from the card before spreading and will weigh it down with stones and some of my potted trees and veggies.
Please admire my lovely winter brassica and leek beds in the photo below!
You may remember this area from earlier blog posts, where the fence was destroyed in high winds. I covered the area with polythene (the groundsheet of an old tent) after it had been trampled by the people repairing the fence with the timber from the damaged fencing temporarily…. and it is still there. No beds, but at least it isn’t weedy thanks to the polythene. It has become home to some odds and ends too, as can happen when a ‘temporary’ dumping ground is set up. I have had to decide to just let it go and not worry, this area will be sorted out at some point I’m sure and I have fortunately found another place to grow my winter brassicas and leeks.
At the allotment, I had covered an area of invasive horseradish with polythene (recycled from an old lambing shed) for almost two years, removing it 6 weeks or so ago. It has not been a success. Deprived of light for so long, the horseradish has welcomed the sunshine and re-grown. It is clearly in another dimension of its own, invincible. You have to admire its survival abilities! So, I’m removing the shoots as they pop up and re-thinking this area. In the meantime, it’s a handy place for the cloche hoops to recline until the brassicas go in.
The wild weeds on the right belong to my allotment neighbour. The jungle is an excellent source of weed seeds and keeps me on my hoeing toes. The rest of his plot is growing veg, this area has proven a bit too much for him this year I think.
It’s amazing how perennial weeds can survive even the harsh growing conditions of the past two months. Here, bindweed, tormentil and creeping buttercup have crept into my allotment from neighbouring plots and weed infested paths. It only took a few minutes to remove. Always worth keeping an eye on the edges of your plot for uninvited guests.
Birds, wasps and other garden visitors are helping themselves to some of the ripening fruit. Many of my early plums were damaged and some ripe tomatoes in the polytunnel, fortunately only those growing low. A couple of cucumbers too. The poor creatures are so thirsty it’s hardly surprising really.
We seem to be managing to share the Japanese wineberries and raspberries that are ripe now quite amicably. I do need to check for wasps first!
These poor things got forgotten about and frazzled. A lime or possibly lemon ( lost labels, can’t tell which is which) has lost almost all of its leaves thanks to the experience – buds are growing again now – and the Kafir lime on the right is rather sorry looking too.
I’m hoping the red hazel will recover…
This is my beautiful baby watermelon!
But sadly a couple of days after taking the photo, the mother plant mysteriously died. All of the other plants around it are fine, it is an absolute mystery.
As it this! All of the climbing French beans in these work beds have been killed by some kind of rodent (we think). For some peculiar reason of its own, the creature bit through the stalk of every bean about 4 cm above the soil surface, killing the beautiful plants. It doesn’t seem to have eaten the beans, the whole thing is a mystery. The determined creature has done this to five (yes, five!!) teepees of climbing French beans.
I was so very sad. They were beautiful and productive.
As if long dry hot days were not enough, we had a storm which flattened some sunflowers and these poor globe artichokes. I think they will regrow from the parent plant but the flowering stems are destined for the compost.
The storm sent piles of seed trays flying about my garden. A young apple tree in the front garden is now at a jaunty angle and needs staking.
My big, old apple tree has shed a significant amount of fruit due to the dry weather. I am willing it to hang to to the last apples so that I will have some for chutneys and pies.
Last autumn I bought a stack of lolly pop sticks from a discount store bargain bin (so you can imagine how cheap they were!) to use as plant labels. Unfortunately one day I decided to use some of my lovely colourful Sharpies to brighten things up. Big mistake! I now have lots of plants which I can’t properly identify, especially frustrating for new plants that I am trying out. You live and learn….
I usually use an Edding 140 S pen, which lasts a long time on wood, plastic, all kinds of materials. I want to find something which works on wood and isn’t made from plastic, so will be trying out a soft pencil in the traditional manner, although to begin with will use both until I am sure it will work.
The garden is absolutely not as I wanted it to be by this stage of the summer! How has it been for you? I hope sharing some of my mistakes and mishaps will make you feel a bit better about anything that hasn’t gone quite as you wished in your garden.
But there is still so much to celebrate – here are yesterday morning’s polytunnel harvests 🙂