…ups and downs, swings and roundabouts. Whatever way you look at it the first of the ‘summer’ months has been erratic: from over 30C and then down to single figures at night, glorious baking hot sunshine (too hot for breakfast outside) and then cold, drizzly days with autumn mists. There are field mushrooms popping up! The well is full! Tomorrow is July and the forecast is 19C and rain! Climate change? Who knows but it’s certainly meant losses and gains in the veg patch.
Starting with the positive it’s been great for the soft fruit. Our red currants, gooseberries, black currants and raspberries have given us bumper crops. The gooseberries, along with the elderflower cordial, were turned into jam and ice cream. The rest have been flash frozen (or are being, the raspberries and black currants are still coming) and then packed into bags for future jellies, jams and cakes.
I’m sure the blueberries tasted nice but only the birds can tell. The plums, that we moaned about last year (not one!), are dripping from the trees. The first of the yellow plum jams have been made, with a dash of vanilla this year, and there’s a weekend of bottling ahead. The cucumbers, sweetcorn and green peppers have been unaffected, and there are plenty of onions and garlic again. This year I decided to have a go at flash freezing the garlic as last years crop lasted well into the spring but then started to sprout. So this year only half are being dried and the rest, as an experiment, are in the freezer.
All sounds tip top. But then the potatoes… in fact they did ok but I chose, perhaps not unreasonably, a warm morning to dig them up. Which then turned into a boiler and I left them out to dry in the sun. The next day many had turned black, we tried to use them up as quickly as possible (freezer is now also full of potato cakes) but alas many were destined for the compost bin having got rotten before we could use them. Well, you learn by your mistakes.
The brassicas loved the rain. Huge great cauliflowers, enormous cabbages and giant calabrese started to appear. But then the leaves got bigger and bigger and, as the song goes, “if I only had a heart”. I peered in through the foliage hoping for a glimpse of something not leaflike – nothing.
Eventually, we did get some cauliflowers and calabrese but really quite small which was so disappointing. Especially as this year I remembered to put plastic collars around the base of them all to keep egg-laying moths away (which worked brilliantly, I didn’t lose a single plant). I’m still hoping that the sprouts, which form later in the year, and the purple sprouting broccoli, which we get next year, will be ok. Not sure how much more patience to have with the cabbages, and I really wanted some of those mammoth lombardy heads like we’ve seen others growing. At least the smaller cauliflower heads were put to good use, as along with some of our beans, courgettes, onions etc there are now 4 jars of piccalilli in the pantry too.
And it seems crazy that July is tomorrow and we haven’t had any toms yet. Last month all the plants were doing well, especially the roma ones sown in January, and by mid June there were loads of green toms. And there are still loads of green toms. Only green. And perhaps most worrying is that many of the new flowers above have fallen off unfertilised. We have both noticed the lack of insects in general this year. In fact, amazingly, the purple sprouting broccoli from early spring came and went without a single, horrid grey aphid in sight. We haven’t put the fly curtains on the doors yet. As for honey bees: nada. The bumble bees are happy with the buddleia and lavender but really very few flying creatures to marvel at and be bothered by. Perhaps when summer really does arrive…
Meanwhile, the countryside is still lovely and green and full of wild flowers. Even the field next door which was sprayed has bounced back with poppies and chicory. So the toms and peppers can wait, there’s plenty of courgettes and chard and beans to keep us going. And it’s perfect walking weather too 🙂