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Summer is just a step away...

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Adamn Greathead
Rank attained: Hazel Tree
Rank attained: Hazel Tree

Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 44
Location: West Midlands

PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 9:41 am    Post subject: Summer is just a step away... Reply with quote

4.45am. The choir of birdsong is stronger than ever, the light is creeping back and everything belonging to the night shift is fading. Fast. Whether it's working in the garden or not; I sit distinguishing the blackbird's song from that of the robin's, the spotted woodpecker's and so on. Days like this are what I wake up for and nothing else will divert my attention from the garden at such a bountiful time of the year.

With the wet and warm spell we have been experiencing the garden has surged forward into premature maturity, an event which does not normally take place here for another three weeks or so. However it is my heartfelt duty to prolong the life of this garden and to that end I have been deadheading the herbaceous border, cutting back copious amounts of spent flowers and developing seedheads from Aquilegia 'Ruby port'- a beautiful double aquilegia whose colour directly relates to its name- Delphinium 'Pacific giant', Lupinus 'Gallery mixed' and I have also been fastidiously removing the young hips from the roses in the herbaceous border in a desperate strive to budge them into a second phase of flowering. Despite this there are the reliable plants which every year appear almost from nowhere and from that day flourish, flowering their little flora socks off. Within this group I would mention Rosa 'High hopes' which adopts that typical rose scent that modern day breeding has lost.

Dipsacus sativum, which by its vernacular name is known as teasel, aspires to be the tallest plant in the borders and more often than not achieves just that, readily competing with Stipa gigantea (Golden oats) and verbena bonariensis. Nothing proves to impress me more than the floriferous habit of Knautia macedonica and, for some reason, his year seems to be the optimum year for it as the fluffy bonnet-like flowers are being thrust from the mound of leaves en masse, creating a hazy display which firmly reassures me summer is well and truly underway. Any of these plants I would recommend you grow simply because they epitomise easy gardening due to their low maintenance status whilst still looking fantastic in the process.

Where the vegetable garden is concerned I hold no secrets admitting that the flower garden takes second place and by the time we approach May/June this is often the case. By no means am I ashamed at my lack of skill in balancing both flower and vegetable garden but sometimes I cannot help feeling a slight twang of guilt when we get to the end of summer and the vegetable garden is in pristine condition and the flower garden is looking relatively bedraggled, exasperated and down which, coincidently, has the irony of resembling how I feel at that time. Nevertheless the vegetable garden is starting to come into its own with hazel wigwams clad with scarlet and white runner beans, morning glory, thunbergias, golden hops, sweet peas and cucumbers.

The foliage-rich haulms of 'Wilja' and 'Pentland javelin' potatoes enhance the bare soil that surrounds them which has always played an important part in my design of the vegetable garden because I strongly believe that bare soil, when wet, is far more beautiful than any vegetable that is going to be grown in it so to have both that deep, sensual soil and the vegetables growing in it is a bonus and a sight for sore eyes. Apart from potatoes we have asparagus flickering delicately in the breeze surrounded by night-scented stocks; newly planted leeks which grow next to young parsnips, broad beans and onions. Down from these grow garlic - which is almost ready to harvest- peas, carrots, celery and celeriac, French beans, kohl rabi, asparagus peas, courgettes, cauliflowers, summer cabbage, mustard greens, endive, pak choi, sweetcorn and butternut squashes.

If all this was not enough this year I created a cutflower garden, running adjacent to the vegetable garden which was hard work but certainly not tedious. As soon as I dug to a spits depth I was irritably hitting concrete and rubble so much to my child-like excitement, out came the pick mattock (a cross between a pick axe and a mattock) and what I did not know at the time was that I was to spend roughly 3 or 4 hours lunging this heavy cumbersome tool back and forth, in and out of the shallow soil in a desperate attempt to remove every last scrap of what turned out to be brick, concrete, old paving slabs and even a jumble of bones. Don't get me wrong; I adore physical graft, I'm used to it and it obviously does no harm to my health so my emotion far exceeded happiness, it was more like contentment.

Since the fabrication of this part of the garden I have had no regrets and since April I have been planting a cornucopia of plants in order to produce a regular supply of fresh flowers for the house some of which include Liatris, clarkia, liliums, stocks, asters, delphiniums, sweet peas, hollyhocks, gladioli and dahlias many of whom their variety escapes me. I am pleased. I am progressively warming more and more to this part of the garden and feel confident enough to allow it to remain there for a number of years as long as its productivity continues to reach such a high level. Also, I am growing too with this garden, as the plants grow in size and vigour I grow in knowledge which is inevitably regurgitated back into other parts of the garden.

One of the jobs at this time of the year is the constant tying of tomatoes and the pinching out of side shoots. Above all this becomes almost a daily job, grabbing for the ball of twine and sliding the knife from my trouser pocket I can happily get lost in my work and end up spending longer than anticipated. This year I have gone to the trouble of growing four types of tomato: cherry, plum, standard and beefsteak. Some might say this is excessive and unnecessary in order to feed a household of four like we are here however when put into context that we use plum tomatoes for cooking such as in sauces and soups; cherry tomatoes for salads or on their own; standard tomatoes for having on toast and sometimes in salad and finally, we use beefsteak tomatoes for sandwiches simply because they contain a lot of juice so, as a result, are highly succulent but also they are bigger than standard tomatoes so just one goes along way and can cater fro several sandwiches.
When put like this you can see that we - as a family - enjoy tomatoes probably more than most families and in an attempt to be reliant on our own crop of tomatoes throughout the year, we grow a superior number which in a good year can amount to over 100lb of fresh tomatoes.

Seeing as the garden is coming into its own I feel only too obliged to end on a good note: yesterday with the gentle drizzle landing on my neck and running down my shirt, the fresh air spiralling round my lungs - maybe I'm exaggerating- and the whole ethos of the garden encircling every move I make; I managed to pick a whole basket of fresh peas, embedded in their emerald pods, protected from both pest and plate, which will bestow a mighty meal for a wet and tired gardener and his family...
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