Things have been a lot happier on the Welsh hillsides of late. The rain may still be falling but at least it is a tad warmer and - judging by the amount of bags of produce being carried out the gate - most gardeners are getting a just reward for their efforts. My supermarket days are at an end as a vast array of vegetables are being harvested and, dare I say it, my first storage of broad beans has reached the freezer. There was a time when I thought I would barely get enough vegetables to keep the plate full - let alone have a surplus to set aside for the ‘dark days of winter’.
Soft fruit are also doing rather nicely, and blackcurrants and gooseberries are providing many tarts and crumbles and my wife has started to make a store of jam for those toasty winter breakfasts. There is, however, a bit of concern on the plots on the allotment that grow fruit trees, as apples, pears and plums seem to be in short supply. These trees were full of early blossom but the cool, wet conditions has kept the bees at home and much of this blossom fell like confetti to the ground. I hope the same has not applied to the major fruit growers or this autumn there will be a shortage of home-grown fruit.
This lack of bees has also contributed to many of the flowers falling from the runner beans as these too are missing the gentle buzz of the friendly bee. This only goes to show what a high dependency we have on these busy creatures.
The strawberry has slowly provided a teatime treat this year as the lack of sun allowed them to take much longer to ripen. Normally I have a glut, as scores of them ripen in the afternoon sun and there are far more than I can eat, so my favourite jam is made from the excess. This slow approach has provided a crop over a long period so I may have to forgo a dish with ice cream so my wife can make this jam before their relatively short season comes to an end.
It has not been a good year for the unusual crops of kohl rabi and pak choi on my allotments as they have hated this weather and, having popped their seed leaves through the ground three weeks ago, they have stubbornly refused to grow anymore. They are not as hardy as the old vegetables that have graced my mountainside allotments for decades and are used to whatever weather is thrown at them. Still, growing something different is always a challenge so the odd failure can be lived with.
The greenhouse crops have at least performed well, despite the cool conditions. There has been no need this year to shade its inhabitants from the scorching noon day sun and the door has been closed on more occasions than it has been left open. The only thing I never do, despite the lack of sun, is close the entire windows as air circulation is essential to avoid diseases. Watering is also restricted as the humidity levels are high and water evaporation is low.
As patches of ground become available from my potato harvesting, it is time to consider what I can do with this area to make up for the late season. There are many seeds on the market that are quick maturing and will harvest in six to eight weeks. These are mainly of the ‘baby’ vegetable type but beetroot, carrots and turnips can be sown now and still provide a feed by the end of summer. Better to use this soil rather than let the weeds have a free reign! And of course, salad crops are very quick to mature and radish and salad bowl lettuce will provide those salads for those warm August nights which I am sure will come when someone drags this jet stream away.
Deep in the Brazilian savannah a snapdragon has been found that feeds on worms. Their leaves are covered with glands that secrete a sticky substance that traps the worms and, much like the fly-catching plants, they release enzymes that allows the plants to digest their prey and absorb their nutrients. If only someone could discover a runner bean that eats slugs then the answer too many a gardener's prayer would be heeded. Imagine the surprise a slug would have if the plant turned the tables on it!
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