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POT’S GROWING ON? 25/08/23
I don’t remember who but someone said to me back in June that a dry hot start to summer means a washout for the rest of it. That person was spot on. Non-stop rain and dull days of July and August have given us a never ending autumn, though this has led to some interesting winners and losers. Many of the ornamental perennials, such as the Succisa pratensis above, have loved these last two months, bulking up quickly, putting them almost a year ahead of where I’d hoped they’d be. Great news for next year.
Damp loving plants have excelled, stinging nettles in particular have romped across our farm. In key areas Chris and I hand pulled nettles wearing thick gloves to weaken growth by drawing out the main stems and some of the root system, which come out particularly easily when the stems are strong. In a normal summer, this would be enough for the year as they struggle in our usual drier months. This year however, the wet conditions were ideal and secondary growth skyrocketed. Repeated pulling has allowed other plants like ferns to begin to outcompete them. But in many areas of the garden, this year has led to a painful nettle problem. We do want large nettle patches for wildlife, but we want other plants too, and paths where safe to walk without fear of bring stung every step. For this year, now summer is almost over, in big areas we will simply mow and keep areas short until winter.
Tomatoes on the other hand have hated it. All of our outdoor tomatoes have blight, almost killing even the most blight resistant cultivars. In the polytunnel, the tomatoes simply have not ripened due to the lack of bright sunlight they need. I live in hope for some weeks of sun to bring out the red.
Legumes have been a disaster. I planted peas, mangetout, broad beans, French beans and runner beans in a spot where a natural spring bubbles up in winter. In summer this is normally totally dry, so the spring’s reappearance, drowning every plant, demonstrates just how wet it has been. I resowed the French beans and runner beans at the start of the month. Unfortunately pheasants, which are fairly recklessly released into the area every year, keep eating the young plants. No peas and beans for us this year it seems.
On the other hand, it’s an excellent year for berries. Blackberries are plump and numerous in the hedges right now, filled with water, making them sweet and less sour. We try to leave most for the many important birds that live here, which are really struggling to survive right now because of avian bird flu.
Dandelions have always loved our garden, whatever the weather. They’re enjoying the damp, but so are some of the suppressing plants I’ve added that are beginning to outcompete the dandelions. The geum in the bottom right corner of the above photo is doing a particularly stellar job of this. Like the nettles, we want dandelions but in balance with everything else. In the grass paths and meadows we encourage them, and we leave them in the planting areas these days rather than dig them out, unless they are swamping another young plant.
Finally, our lawn path is loving the weather too, growing thick, a lush furry green monster. I love its wild look, with tufty unkempt bits. Sadly, it does need to be cut to prevent it shading out some of the planting and to keep it usable as a path, however, there have literally been no dry days to do this. Mowing has been really difficult this summer. Leading to very wet socks because of the heavy morning dew as clouds sweep our hillside each dawn like a giant sponge wringing itself onto the grass.