What to do with the garden while you’re on holiday

Tiffany Daneff / 05 August 2014

Just ten days away on holiday and I return to find the garden has changed, not exactly beyond recognition but it has certainly moved on. We have gone from early to mid summer, with the passing of the longest day some way behind us and the evenings already shortening.



That’s the thing I notice as I grow older, not so much time speeding up (although it does feel as though it was only Christmas a couple of months ago) but the realisation that nothing stays the same.  


It’s a truth that gardeners forget at their peril.  Well, my peril certainly because if I had been properly forsightful I might have sown more seeds in succession.  As it is, I was so overwhelmed with just getting the spring sowings made (and the beds dug and netted etc etc etc) that I never really geared myself up towards second and third sowings.  Consequently I have a vegetable plot that is being taken over by bolted lettuces but have none to eat.


That said, I was so pleased with the way that last summer’s butterhead lettuces self-seeded and grew on this year that I had planned on leaving some standing in the hope of repeating the exercise.  

Serious gardeners won’t take summer holidays because there’s too much to tend to.  But I’m not that dedicated which means that I need to plan ahead if I am not to return at the end of August to a thicket of nettles and dock.

Tomatoes



There’s no way around the fact that the tomatoes will need to be watered daily but luckily Mary pops in to do that along with feeding the cat and keeping an eye on the house.  The one remaining Sungold plant is putting out already with trusses of delicious orange fruits that are just that perfect combination of sour and sweet. I stopped the plants after they set four trusses and am feeding weekly.  With any luck the other cherry tomatoes will be ready in a fortnight or so.

The rather late Hampton Hack



It is a little late but I have taken the shears to the catmint in the hope that there is time enough for it grow back again this season.  (The Chelsea Chop is when you cut growth at the end of May to allow it to regrow, the Hampton Hack is done for the same reason in early July.)  I reckon it should just work but we will see.

Feeding



cabbageI’m trying odourless chicken manure pellets for the first time, having been recommended them by Angela at Fibrex Nurseries.  She gardens on clay too and says they help open up the soil.  I scattered them around just before the heavens opened last weekend and they were nicely absorbed where they should provide some slow release nutrition.  So far the dog hasn’t noticed them.

Picking



The sweet peas (which I bought as plants from Coton Manor this spring) are doing brilliantly although the stems are shortening as the season progresses.  I am hoping the chicken pellets will give them a little late season oomph but I fear there will be precious few blooms by the time we return so am picking like mad between now and going away.

kaleThe broad beans (Danko) are going great guns (and have been very tender and sweet) as are the Kelvedon Stringless runners, which, as the name suggests, are almost stringless and very tender too.  Good choice, if I say so myself.

The beets are delicious. I should have planted more though.

The kale is great but needs more picking.

The potatoes have been very good this year.  

onionsThe onions should be fine until we return.  (Fingers crossed)

Jettisoning



There are few things more depressing than coming back from holiday to find dessication and devastation, to which end I am pulling up the last of the cabbages and broccoli.  We had two stupendous cabbages but are now losing the battle to the slugs.  As for the purple sprouting – only one out of five plants produced any purple sprouts.  Sure that one was delicious but I am not planning on growing them again next year.  

Clearing



In the squash bed the courgette has already produced a couple of good fruits which I am going to stuff, the squash is growing nicely but the cucumber is swamped. My fault. I planted five nasturtiums and, after thinking they were never ever going to get going, I returned from 10 days in Devon to find them sprawling over everything.  I told myself they would have to brought under control pretty swiftish if there was to be a single cucumber and returned the next day to tackle the job only to find that cabbage white caterpillars were doing the job for me.  I wish they weren’t.  The glorious orange nasturtiums which I do love eating in salads were nibbled to shreds, leaves had disappeared and half the bed was a sprawling nursery of still unsatiated caterpillars.

Hmm. A friend recommended bug spraying. Tempting I must say.

Weeding



Perhaps it is just the weather – ie the recent lack of rain – but the weeds in the flower borders appear to be under control.  The only nuisance is the bindweed.  I am digging this up before I go away.  The veg plot is anther matter. I have sprayed.  I have strimmed. I have pulled but I am fighting field weeds. The weed suppressant fabric is so flimsy that light penetrates it easily so the brutes just grow on, pushing their way out of the sides until they reach the sun. There’s nothing for it but to put down old carpet and heavy duty ground control fabric. It looks a mess but there it is. Better ugly than overgrown.

Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit www.into-gardens.com for more info. 

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