Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The garden in August




In August the garden slows down and settles down. The mad scramble to sow and to plant things out which rushed me panting through May and June, no day long enough, is gone. Grass still grows but no longer in front of your eyes. Beans and peas are established and romp away, safe by virtue of their height from the ravages of slugs and snails which wiped out smaller plants only weeks ago. Crops are beginning to be ready. The strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries are over and the apples not yet ripe, but the vegetable garden is producing daily for the kitchen.

Vegetable gardening is a great use of August. For flowers I am a spring and early summer gardener. From the first snowdrop and winter aconite through cyclamen, hellebores, daffodils, primroses, tulips, white foxgloves, irises, paeonies, poppies and roses, I am entranced from February to June. But year after year the battered school exercise books which are the closest I get to garden diaries show the entries after July becoming sparse and scrappy: “Dahlias eaten; garden dull; lilies good – plant more”. I think it is in part a legacy from when the children were younger and school holidays, going to stay with parents in Devon in August and later going camping in Cornwall and France. There was no point in planting for August because I was never there and back from holiday the focus was on getting back to school and work in September, no time for gardening other than planting yet more bulbs for another glorious spring.

But the kitchen garden really starts to deliver for you in August. The sugar snap peas and the French beans keep on and on cropping as fast as you can pick. (Note to self: French beans were not dwarf and so the supports are too short. Great variety, grow again next year but needs proper wigwams.) The courgettes are producing far too much as usual, a race to get them off the plant before they morph from green delight into monster marrows. There are red onions swelling and beetroot ready in the ground and the tomatoes in the greenhouse (far too many again, there will be days of chutney making in a few weeks) are beginning to blush faintly red. The globe artichokes I am growing from seed are planted out in a permanent bed, not quite big enough yet to be out of snail danger entirely so needing watching, but the silver serrated leaves lovely in themselves.

There is still weeding to be done, particularly the evil bindweed which longs to take back this garden to the wild and twines and strangles in every bed when you turn your back and the brambles which grow through fruit bushes and grab the unwary as they pass or pick.
It is time to sow more rocket and radishes and more lettuce; to sow rainbow chard as much for the beauty of its coloured stems which will stand through the winter as for the taste which palls for us after the first few weeks of inventive cooking. It is so easy to forget this succession sowing and the mark of a good gardener, which I am not yet but still wish to be, to get it right.

All the new herbs have taken. The lovage is settling in, planning for its gradual expansion from tiny plant to towering beauty. The pineapple sage, ludicrously sweet smelling when the leaves are rubbed between the fingers, is doing well. The fennel is not so sure, it feathery foliage drooping slightly, but it often takes things a while to decide whether they can cope with our stony soil and I think it will be ok. The tarragon is fine and the non-culinary plants which I have grown from seed, Bergamot and Echinacea, are surviving in their pots, despite many snail inroads. Time to plant them out and let them take their chance.

Despite what I have said, there are some real stars still in the flower garden, particularly a Crocosmia Lucifer which carries its sprays of brilliant red like a huge Versailles fountain, and the sweetpeas, planted in hope after reading something Milla wrote and nourished with bags of well rotted horse manure from my friend who raised my chickens. I thought they would never make it in the early weeks when they sulked and sat dully, refusing to grow, and then one day they were off and now they are higher than the raspberry supports and flowering so that the house has jugs of sweetpeas in every room, their faint fragrance catching you unawares as you pass through, like a movement out of the corner of your eye. They are to be enjoyed now for they will soon be gone but by then apples will be ripe and the tomatoes will have taken over the world and the butternut squash will sitting on the kitchen windowsill. It will be chutney time and the house will be full of the smell of vinegar and brown sugar. I would hate to live in a climate without seasons.

25 comments:

  1. That was lovely, Em........I wish my garden was as organised, or that I had more than such few spare hours to spend there

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  2. Beautifully described. For a few moments there, I was in your garden with you. I'm hoping to take up gardening in some form next year ... a decision inspired by the keen gardeners such as yourself, on this site.

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  3. That was lovely - I'm going to print it out and put it by Dear Charlie's bedside: he's been missing his veg patch so much and this will cheer him up no end!
    Can't wait to get busy for next year...

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  4. What a lovely busy blog. I wish I had more space for some veggies but no room although I've got some toms coming on nicely in my mini and I mean mini greenhouse. Probably get about 2lbs if I'm lucky. Toady

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  5. I have a Lucifer too, it's absolutely brilliant this year, not tried rainbow chard over winter must do that and get some more radish and salad in - hopefully better day for gardening tomorrow

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  6. And you still find time to blog . . . you are amazing.

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  7. That was gorgeous - just like a walk through our garden (or mine!).

    It must be a particularly good year for sugar snaps - we had lbs and lbs of them - and for crocosmia, which have flowered pathetically recently but this year are, as you say, fountaining with read and orange. Gorgeous!

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  8. i wish i could grow all that. we have a city yeard, with two big dogs and not much sun. i have two cherry tomato plants that have been yielding about a dozen tomatoes a day, and two heirloom tomatoes in pots. they're not ready yet, though i go outside every day and will at them to turn red.

    my neighbor brought me two of her tomatoes yesterday. yum.

    but sugar snap? lovage? other herbs and veggies? no room. no sun. i'll have to live on yours. or the description of yours.

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  9. I was nodding away reading this, I so agree, I slightly lose interest in the flowers at this time of year and turn to the veggies. I can't grow as much as you, but our little patch is starting to be very productive! I like the sound of that pineapple sage. I have been meanng to plant Crocosomia Lucifer ever since I saw a photo in one of Monty Don's books, but keep forgetting to get round to it.

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  10. Hi elizabeth,Isnt it brill this time of the year and so much water... i'll be in touch next week people here this week and southport flower show on friday with my dad and margaret! what fun..xxoo

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  11. Your garden souns lovely and funkymunky is right - it does make the reader feel they are there with you. Keep meaning to say I think you were brilliant to help with the Eisteddfod - I don't think I would have felt that confident so I was very impressed. I bet it made a real difference talking to Welsh speakers all week.

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  12. Lovely blog - worthy of a gardening magazine and definitly a 'stress buster' for anyone reading it!
    I'm so envious of your garden - we will have to get busy (busier!)one of these days and properly fence agains the deer - maybe then we'll have some success.

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  13. Your garden looks so much healthier than mine, windswept and very Autumn looking here a joy to see yours.
    Blossom

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  14. Lovely pictures elizabeth, i'm really missing my camera....Do you fancy coming here next week and we'll go for a walk in the old gardens of hafodunos and a pub lunch ??

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  15. That was gorgeous, a meander through your garden. All the more lovely because plants don't do it for me, but they clearly do it for you!
    I liked the way your life has changed since your kids were little, (ie; in august you were never there), that gives me hope. ONe day I may be able to wander through my garden with enough time to appreciate it.
    Lovely, thank-you. BTW, I took my coffee out to my garden bench this week, a tip from your mood busters.
    Pigx

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  16. You're right about the seasons - each one brings to the garden something special and unique. My favourite has to be the green of spring...

    But vegetables this year, oh dear. Disaster.

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  17. Lovely Em, but I'm very jealous. my veg garden has been a disaster this year and I've no idea why. Usually I'm sinking under the weight of fresh veg at this time of year, but the total harvest so far has been 4 courgette and some very sad lettuce!
    Sweet peas are fab tho'!

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  18. Spent a blissful couple of hours in the garden yesterday, wearing my oldest clothes, hair caught up out of the way, tendrils flying in the breeze, flushed from the work, when a friend called in. 'Oh, you look nice,' she said. Made me wonder why I ever bother making an effort, or maybe it's the hormones.

    Thank you for your comment about wearing your best undies to garden, will take the tip!

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  19. You have a lovely garden and I am so impressed with what you have produced considering the bad summer we have had. Your photos are lovely........ gorgeous coloured sweet peas. Bindweed is trying to take over here too.
    My favourite season is spring as well and the garden here is looking its best then.

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  20. Lovely pictures. What a gorgeous garden.

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  21. Oh that garden! So fabulous.. i could smell the sweet peas (one of my all-time favourites).. Ah yes, though, the horrors of bindweed and brambles (plus the dreaded ground elder)...
    I go round mine like a headless chicken (not a good analogy, given Asbo's hen-hunting exploits).... not sure where or what to attack first. jxxxx

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  22. I'm taking note of and am very grateful for all the suggestions about my shoulder so thank you. It does put it in perspective though when you referred to being so ill prior to the shoulder. In comparison I've nothing to complain about. I was going to say that half the reason I'm moaning so much as this has happened out of nowhere... but then I realised that, again, nothing in comparison to your experience.

    I still think you are being modest.. also laughed when you referred to the language 'barrier' here in Wales - if the North/South divide wasn't enough (we're taught 'South') there are local variations here! No wonder it's such an interesting language to learn!

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  23. Thank you for you lovely comments but intrigued: a yew tree and a utility room who is doing what to whom??? Not down to roots is it???

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  24. No, the house isn't listed (halleluyah!)...not sure I could deal with a listed house again (been there, done that, waved the Welsh and Chinese slate tiles under the nose of the listing people...). Actually there are tons of far more interssting houses in Dulverton...one we visited the other night dates back to medieval times and has two ghosts! jxx

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