Climate change

Miles walked: 55.6       Miles to go: 444.4

The climate here astounds me. It’s early days but already the possibilities open to us as gardeners seem boundless. Take this week. Three days ago, the garden was sweltering in a searing, dry heat: the curcubits dropped their wilted leaves like wet rags; the beans collapsed; the brassicas lay down in submission as if to say, “Enough!”  I looked at my late plantings, the strugglers and seedlings and decided to put their imminent demise down to experience: August is just too hot and dry for them. At least a few annual flowers were putting on a brave face.

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Yesterday, and things couldn’t have been more different. The reason? Rain. Forty-eight hours of it to be precise. Wonderful, steady, warm, soak-the-garden-and-fill-the-buckets rain. There were some stonking thunderstorms to go with it, impossible to capture on our camera (and I’m no photographer) but you can at least sense the mood in the valley as the storms rolled through.

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The rain stopped and the sun came out. The temperature climbed and humidity stood at over 90%. In the garden–turned-rainforest, everything went crazy. Look at these canellini beans, planted less than a month ago (then planted again when most of them were eaten by beasties) as an experiment in late plantings. In the heat, they looked done for; now, overnight, they had doubled in size and opened their first flowers.

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Also doubled in size, the cucumbers.

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They just keep coming and coming . . . and so do the sweet peppers.

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We only have one chilli plant this year but suddenly from nothing it is loaded with fruit.

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I can’t begin to capture the amount of violet-podded climbing beans in a picture.The plants have reached the top of their poles and are coming down again, still flowering, still producing pods.

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They are so heavy with beans, we have had to tether the poles to fence posts to stop them falling over – and now the plants are off along their guy ropes like there’s no tomorrow . . .

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The aubergines and melons were victims of our move. The seedlings struggled, the young plants were so pathetic we almost consigned them to the compost heap. For weeks they have sat in the heat and done very little. After the rain, it’s a different story.

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The squashes, too, had a hard time at the start. Two days starved of light in the back of our moving van followed by a week with no water; not surprisingly, we lost plenty of them. They looked miserable little things going into the ground and that was before the snails tucked in. Apart from the kiwi, I have never seen anything grow so fast in my life: I swear you could stand and watch the plants climb, the tendrils cling, the fruits swell as they luxuriated in the first proper drink for weeks. They are everywhere, lurking in the undergrowth, smooth, stripy and knobbly in shades of grey, green and yellow.

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Here was a post-rain surprise. In my lunch trug, alongside the compulsory beans and cucumber, a lone ripe cherry tomato. We might have more to come, but if not, it doesn’t matter: this one is a little blight-beating miracle!

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It’s all so green again. The weeds are loving it, of course, but so too are are the mixed salad leaves and rocket I planted less than a week ago.

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Time to be optimistic again, time to carry on with experimental plantings. I’ve popped in two varieties of kale to give us a winter / spring green. I love ‘Nero Di Tuscana’, it’s so reliable and tasty.

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‘Sutherland’ is a new experience, a seed with a story. http://www.realseeds.co.uk/kale.html

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I know there’s a good chance these little plants won’t make it: flea beetle, whitefly, caterpillars, snails, pigeons . . . they’re all waiting in the wings. It’s still very hot. It might not rain again for some time. However, the more I see of this amazing place, the more I think the problem may well be the opposite. Just how much kale can two people eat? 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Climate change

  1. What a transformation! Just goes to show that we shouldn’t give up on struggling plants too soon. What are you going to do with all the beans? I highly recommend making a batch of piccalilli. The size of the cucumbers and peppers is very impressive. Did you ever get that size in Shropshire or Wales?

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  2. At the moment we’re eating beans in as many different ways as possible! We have two lots of family coming to stay next week so at least we will have some help with the daily bean feast. We grew our (previous) best cucumbers in the Shropshire polytunnel last summer, we’ve always had a reasonable indoor crop of peppers but never outside, except in France. Lots of different varieties next year, I think 🙂 It’s amazing what a bit of warmth does and one of the big differences here is that the temperature doesn’t drop away at night. Can’t believe Anja is having her first frost . . .

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  3. Yes, frost in August – terrible. I’m going to reduce the number of tomato plants next year and try several varieties of cucumbers. The chillies have done well, but the peppers are struggling a bit (and I’m still getting on top of the aphid problem). Our beans have just started cropping. They’ll be going into a spicy tomato sauce, I think. Or served with butter and fried mustard seeds. Have fun with your visitors!

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  4. Thanks, I’m sure we will – it will be a bit crazy but a lot of fun, we’re really looking forward to having them all here. Roger’s currently going all out to fit a kitchen before they arrive as food will be a big focus! Our little granddaughter Annie loves to graze around the garden so I hope she likes cucumbers and peppers – not to mention peaches – there will be lots for her to nibble on.

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