A rain of circles & squares…

IMG_7665.JPG
Sunflower sentry duty…

It rained on August 1st, and it rained again on the 2nd. It rained on the 3rd 4th and 5th; it rained the first Tuesday and again on Wednesday 7th and the next day also. Thus it rained the whole first week of August. It also rained each day of the second week, with another full encore the following week. In fact it rained every day the first twenty two days of August, and that, as must be said put a real dampener on the late summer’s gardening experience.

It did dry up and improve somewhat toward month’s end but the dull damp conditions for most of the month took its toll: the potatoes were blighted, as was the polytunnel tomato crop; the pumpkins sat in the dull damp and those that survived the unseasonal water-logging and flooding simply called it quits and failed to mature and swell to anything near expected potential, the vines mildewed completely and we had to pick the remainders. We had to lift the late onions and shallots and cure them under cover, and the lettuce and rocket bed was obliterated by the constancy of the pelting droplets; the summer colour in Mrs Dirt-digger’s orangey-patch looked bedraggled and those sunflowers which actually managed to bloom looked forlorn. We did however have some cucumbers from the polytunnel, in fact – and perhaps by way of compensation – we have had a veritable cucumber glut, which we’ve put to good use by using all the excess in a store of pickles, a challenging exercise with our dried herb and spice rack; turmeric, mustard seed, fennel seed, dill, chive flowers and shallots, fifteen jars in all to see us through the leaner months.

20190920_172355.jpg
Anemone with rudbekia

Things improved greatly with the first days of September, skies cleared and the sun shone; we had days with temperatures well into the mid twenties and all breathe a sigh of thankfulness at feeling the remnants of summer before it disappeared completely again for another year. The nights are cooler now and the mornings mistier, and with the exception of a couple of overcast occurrences the first 20 days of September had been a bonus. As I type there is patchy blue sky once again, a strengthening breeze and an expected temperature this afternoon of 18 degrees, which for the latter end of September is as good as it gets. Rain is forecast.
The early-fruits harvest through the early summer months was disastrous, a combination of last summer’s prolonged severe drought and this spring’s adverse blossom burst timing, and although our gooseberry and blackcurrant crop was practically non-existent as a result, these last few weeks Mrs Dirtdigger has been foraging some wonderfully plump blackberries which we’ve combined with April Queen Cider apple to make some seasonal jam that will more than compensate for the meagre store from the early season harvest.

20190910_161251.jpg
Grasshopper on a ripening pumpkin

We’ve already dipped into the pasta sauces and pizza sauces we jarred, just as we used the Rhubarb and Ginger Jam; we’ve also used plenty of the summer pickles, and this weekend we will set about combining our now fully ripened Cayenne peppers with Fresh coriander leaves and garlic bulbs harvested in July to make some Harissa, another of the monster’s staples.
The Purple Cascade French Beans proved to be a winner, and though the vines are now spent we have over 10 lbs frozen for use in the coming months. The beets are finished and it’s just a tad too late to try a successional sowing, the autumn curly kale is ready anytime soon and we still have the parsnip bed which only lately seems to be spurting growth and this should herald a good crop, most especially with the warm damp soil conditions that are autumn parsnip heaven.
And so with the drawing to a close of the monster’s annual cultivation activities, other activities come to the fore. We’ve already begun to plan some of those changes we need to make, and also some we want to make during the forthcoming winter season. Mrs Dirt-digger is planning a large octagonal herb wheel construct into which we’ll relocate most of our herbs early next year, and we will also finish the gothic picket fence which we started last winter.
It rained again yesterday, but as we are now the darker side of the equinox the weather is as expected to be given that. The rudbekias and anemones shine in the speeding autumn sunlight, the dahlias stand blousy-bright and the autumn beauties are on sentry duty right the way around the monster’s perimeter.

This past weekend we set some lavender and bay laurel cuttings; we collected our marigold, sweetpea, poppy and calendula seed heads, we cut the last of the strawflower blooms and have them drying in the potting shed and we planted some ‘Thalia’, ‘Sunnyside Up’ and ‘Double Fashion’ daffodil bulbs for new colour next spring and with that action right there, this circle is squared for the year.

It has started to rain, again

IMG_20190923_132305.jpg

Win some, lose some; taking in the outcome.

20190810_142624.jpg
Moneymakers ripening on the vines
then suddenly it was now;

the evenings noticeably shorter and the days slightly cooler, weeks and months have slipped by in the blink of an eye, and summer is most definitely in autumnal transition. July lived up to its promise and in doing so conferred on us four weeks of reasonably warm sun-filled days, a small seasonal mercy given the experiences of the late spring and early summer. June was typically hit-and-miss, and of course April and May, well, least said there the better…
But summer definitely arrived with July; however, it seems to have checked-out immediately on Augusts’ arrival. We’ve been returned to the all too familiar dull and wet routine this last week and the short range weather forecast indicates much the same for the coming week, but at least the temperature is holding up.
Summer came but now is most definitely going, and yet it seems as though some of the monsters summer show has only just begun. The sunflowers have only shown their faces in the last two to three weeks, and only now (as we enter the second week of August) have the gladioli made a full entrance. The disastrously dull and damp spring not only hampered the annual seed sowing schedule through April and May, it also had a detrimental time delay on many of the other garden stalwarts. We’ve had very little in the way of a crop from the gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes, and the apple and plum trees have not fared much better, a combination -we thinks- of last summer’s and autumn’s severe drought followed by this spring’s constant grey and stormy washout. We did have some nice rhubarb while it lasted though; we also had kale, rocket and chard a plenty, some fine beetroot and potatoes which we are still harvesting and consuming as we need and by way of compensation perhaps we have had a good harvest of onions, shallots and garlic.

20190808_083410.jpg
Centurion onions left out to cure…

  So, win some, lose some…plenty of alliums, and no strawberries.
The effects of the delayed spring are visible still though, even in the polytunnel. By this time last year we had been harvesting our tomatoes for over a month, whereas this year most of the set trusses are yet to ripen; there is plenty of fruit and Mrs Dirtdigger has made some fabulous tomato, basil and onion soup already with the first flush, it’s just that most of the tomato crop is still green at present. We have had some fabulous courgettes, we’ve had Rosa Bianca aubergines, and we are having a veritable cucumber glut fest, so we’ve opted to make some summer pickle with the excess. The pumpkin vines have set fruit and hopefully these will bulk up over the next eight weeks or so. The parsnips have struggled a little, but in the last fortnight they have begun to crown out and leaf-up a little more vigorously perhaps indicating that there is some subterranean development as well.

20190812_112514.jpg
some of the daily harvest from the monster’s bounty…

We made and jarred some jam, but nowhere near the volume we made in previous years, and we’ll have to wait a while longer as the ingredients for some of the monster’s other staples are still only ripening, but, there’s time yet.
Each gardening year is as different as different can be from those that have gone before. There are so many variables to consider when undertaking any gardening project it is surprising at times that anything at all is ever successful, and yet we continue to do it, day in, day out, and week after month, year after year. As any recorded sowing diary should show, you can sow the same varieties of seed on the very same day each year, and you can expend the same effort in care and attention to planting on and planting out and maintaining a thorough watering and feeding regime, and end up with results so different from previous years’ as to have you think you must have lost a whole month somewhere between April and July. And thus has been this year’s curve.
It’s been dull and damp and warm and wet, maybe not when we wanted it to be, and at times certainly not when we needed it to be, but that is what we had to work with so we got to work while attempting to ignore the pop-up pond that appeared on the monster’s measure throughout the spring, and which has made an unexpected if not wholly unsurprising return this past weekend.

20190808_083628.jpg
Cucumber, time for summer pickles…

So win some, lose some, and we certainly lost some this year, but Mrs Dirtdigger’s pollinators patch has been buzzing, and we’ve had hares and pheasants and frogs and buzzards and bees, and what we failed to get on the one hand nature gifted us with the other. We have not had the success hoped for with some things this year, but the harvest is in full swing so we’ll see how things fare. We’ll not change too much mind you for some variables are beyond our control: we’ll continue to tread softly; we watch our track, pay attention to the footprint, and we here at monsterinthecorner will continue to play our part in negating damage to the wider planetary variables, conscious of the degree of long-term damage our species has had on the fundamental variables on which we all ultimately depend for our continued existence.