Roseland Online, September 2021
There are many, and we are inclined to agree with them, that September is the start of the gardening year. Summer holidays are largely over, the heat of summer, and boy, have we had some of that this year, is dissipating and we feel more inclined to get out and work in the garden. And in fact, the garden feels more inclined to work with us.
It is also time to reflect on what has gone well or badly this year, and more importantly, why.
Although we all became very morose over that wet wet winter and cold spring, it has actually done our hardy shrubs and trees the power of good. Certainly, in our gardens, we are experiencing that all–too-Cornish problem of overgrowth, when the water table laid down in the the winter and spring, coupled with the heat and dry summer have caused our shrubby stuff to put on a good deal of growth. While you don’t want to be carrying out full prunes at this time of year, it would not be wrong to have a judicious tidy up of evergreens in particular that are getting a little ahead of themselves. Lift crowns, rein in and neaten up. Plants are unlikely to scorch from the sun or wind, and frosts are a way off yet.
Other things that seem to have grown extraordinarily well for us this year, principally because of the first hot and dry period are the warm weather crops. This include tomatoes (lovely long trusses of the sweetest fruit) , peppers, courgettes, sweetcorn, tomatillos and physalis. All of this is much later than we’d normally expect for Cornwall because of the cold snap in April/May but we’re probably more in tune with the rest of mainland UK for once.
As for our figs and grapes – well, we never expected to be eating home-grown figs in those numbers this summer, and multiple decent bunches of grapes are teetering on the edge of ready. A tip – net or bag your nearly-ripe figs and grapes with a fine meshed fleece, or you will lose them to the blackbirds and wasps. The extra layer helps the fruit ripen more quickly too. Florence fennel is good this year too, provided you got them in the ground at just the right time. We’ve learned to sow them after the summer solstice, to avoid them going to seed.
Our disaster this year has been salad. First of all, leatherjackets (nematodes sorted them out), the second fledgling crop was pulled out by pheasants, and then it turned wet and the slugs and snails took over in earnest. Crop #3 was doing well, unless the hot spell and it all went tough and to seed in a week. Undeterred, we are on crop 4, but we missed our usual big summer season of lettuces, as did our customers. It just goes to show, sometimes, the odds are just stacked against us in a year, but luckily, it hasn’t all been bad.
The cucurbits (cucumbers, marrows, squash and courgettes in particular) have also been rocket-fuelled but don’t waste the output even if you are sick to death of them with every meal. Pickle your cucumbers (easy peasy, takes ½ an hour) and sneak courgettes into cakes and savoury loaves. Or give them to the dog – or is that just our dogs that eat them?
The legumes have also done extremely well – peas, runner beans, French beans galore. Luckily, these freeze well so again, don’t waste. We are unlikely to get crops like these 2 years running so make the most of them.
Conversely, root vegetables have done less well. Our spuds are a bit small and dry because of that extended period of dry weather, and that is a disappointment. We doubt many of us have the time or inclination to hose our spuds every night. Similarly, beetroot and parsnips have been reluctant to germinate and so we’ll probably be buying them this winter. Carrots have done surprisingly well in the circumstances, but celeriac is likely to be grotty if you didn’t water like fury during the dry patch. They will probably be inedible. Could be the last year of trying with them.
On the hot flower front, dahlias, glads, salvias and cosmos, amongst others, are having a a spectacular year. We have been picking armfuls, and helped along by a heavy mulch of manure last winter, the dahlias are 5ft tall, with lovely strong stems for cutting.