Sunday, 22 July 2012

Surveying the Damage...

 So, after the wettest June on record, following a wet winter and two wet summers, it was time to survey the damage.  While my broad beans did well as they were pollinated before the deluge, not everything else has done.  I was worried about my parsnips, which have a  habit of failing when it's too wet.  I was so worried that at one point I covered them with a cloche, which may have done the trick as I have a bed full of parsnips, albeit full of weeds as well.
 As for the tomatoes, well it's fairly disastrous.  Some of them have root rot, the brick in the picture is propping up one affected plant.  The cloches have been on and off the tomatoes in an attempt to keep them warm and dry, and allow pollination.  I do have some fruit, the later flowering ones are covered in blooms and look reasonably healthy, so who knows...
I started these beetroot (front) and carrots (back) under a cloche too a few weeks ago.  They have germinated quite well, so now they're in the fresh air and growing on.  The earlier beetroot sowing had patchy germination due to the rain and cold.  The cloches have been an essential tool this year though I really didn't have enough to cover everything I wanted to.  They will need to be replaced now - after torrential rain, hail and punishing winds they are now suffering badly, with tears and gaps.
This is my sole surviving courgette, the only one that made it through the rain, low temperatures and slug predations.
 The soft fruit is dreadful too.  Here is the first picking of redcurrants, a paltry few pounds of fruit, small and sparse.
Here you can see what the redcurrants should look like (left) compared with what I mostly have (right) - straggly partial bunches of fruit.  You would think birds, wouldn't you, though we don't have a big problem with birds on the plot.  But the gooseberries are the same, and they, like the redcurrants, had masses of blossom at the start.  I suspect that some didn't set, some got eaten by snails and some was simply blasted off by the wind, hail and rain.  The blackcurrants are much better, as are the whitecurrants and red gooseberries so it's very strange.
 The strawberries and rasberries have also struggled, the rasberries being particularly poor and suitable only for cooking.
Here are the blackcurrants and redcurrants bagged up for the freezer.  The redcurrants are destined to make fruit cordial, so they go in the bag as they are, I couldn't face stripping the tiny berries from the stalks!  Raspberries and damaged strawberries get made into cordial straight away.
 The grass has had a really good year, growing  up to 4 feet in height, as you can see.  Weeds everywhere, it will take months to get under control.  This morning I weeded the lettuce bed, hundreds of weeds needed removing.
It's been a great year for slugs and snails, here is a snail at the top of a redcurrant branch.  We used to have a lot of slugs, but the snail population has grown massively in the last few years, we have lots of species, including a few very stripy ones like this one.  They've had a great time eating my vegetables and fruit.
 The apples have also been hard hit, this is Katy which is normally groaning with fruit by this time, I reckon it's around 50% down this year, the Spartan only has one left, the Blenheim has lost a lot of its fruit and only the Worcester Pearmain has a decent quantity left on.  I couldn't find a single plum on the tree when I looked this morning.  Again, I suspect the weather did rather more "thinning" of the fruit than I wanted.
As for the strawberries, many have rotted in the wet, others eaten by slugs so we have a poor crop this year.

The lettuce has done well under a cloche for most of the time, the potatoes look good, the marrows and pumpkins are belatedly growing on now, the peas are behind but flowering well and the brassicas, though few in number, are looking healthy, so it's not all bad.  But I can honestly say that this has been the worst weather and most difficult year for growing fruit and veg I've ever known.  If you're a commercial grower though, it must be just disastrous.

While we have been drowning, on the other side of the pond there has been an extremely dry summer!  What a strange, strange year!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

First Crop

 Finally, two days without (much) rain, and we were able to get to the allotment to cut the grass and do some much needed weeding.  Then I picked our first proper crop of the year - broad beans.  These are Superaquadulce, started under a cloche in March, after the soil had been warmed and dried for four weeks.  The soil round here hasn't actually been dry since May 2011!
 While in the photo at the top you can see a whopper pod, which is well over 10 inches long, the vast majority are falling into the 8.5-10 inch bracket, this one is just under 10 inches.  This is partly luck - I started them early, so they had chance to pollinate before the weather turned really bad.  Then all the rain swelled the pods quickly, broad beans really like rain.  Other growers on the plots who sowed later haven't been so lucky. Having said that, there is only one more picking left on the plants as the later flowers didn't get pollinated.
 Although a few have slug and snail damage, most are in really good shape and produced excellent, tasty beans.  These will be in my lunchbox tomorrow, in a salad.  If you're in the north and west of the UK, where we get all the crappy, wet weather, I do recommend these beans.  Germination is good despite our cold clay soil, and if you use a cloche to get them started you have a good chance of an excellent crop.
Finally, here's a picture of my favourite geranium, Russel Pritchard.  This is actually outside my Mum's house but I claim ownership as I gave her a bit of my original plant, which has now grown  into this.  Mine has since died, so I really must take a piece back this year.  It likes the sun, and in this position it gets the sun every morning, well, when we have any sun, that is!

Friday, 6 July 2012

A brief glimpse of summer...

 My old rose came into bloom this week, it doesn't last long.  I really want to take a cutting of this, it has a lovely scent so I always bring some blooms into the house.  It's now being drenched in the latest monsoon, so I'm glad I did this while I had chance!

 My New Dawn Rose is also flowering, though not as prolifically as last year.  I'm going to make an effort to feed it well this summer and hope it will be better next year.

 I love Nemesia, reliable and prolific flowers whatever the weather, and they have had a lot to cope with this year.
 One flower out on the peony, now being battered by the rain!

 After two summers of monsoon rains, we thought we couldn't have yet another bad summer, but...   Two weeks ago this bed was clear of weeds, but the incessant rain means we can't get out to keep on top of the weeds.
 We've been reduced to emergency gardening in the small gaps between rainstorms, so on Sunday evening we went out at 6pm to transplant the brassicas, which were overdue for moving.  Here's a purple sprouting broccoli plant.  The brown stuff in the picture is well-rotted cat compost (sawdust, cat pee and worm contributions during the composting).  It helps lighten the soil and does deter slugs a bit.
 I've never had it before, but I think some of my tomatoes have root rot from the wet, this one was looking a bit limp, characteristically they go limp in sunshine.  I've now put a large cloche over all the tomatoes in an attempt to keep some of the rain off.  How do you feed tomatoes when they are too wet already?
But the potatoes are quite happy in the rain.  I only use blight-resistant varieties due to our wet climate, they have had some damage from slugs but not much.  They only have to last a few more weeks, even blight-resistant plants can succumb in extreme wet, so I'm crossing fingers that we will have a good crop.

Now it's back to the flood watch, with the river levels up in the last hour I have my trusty flood broom and flood gate at the ready again...