Still - at least it's tidy, in contrast with the previous two summers, and the terraces are definitely more manageable than the previous continuous slope. We have now enjoyed three meals using our lovely broad beans. It may not seem like much, but it's been most welcome. There aren't any more to come. The drought put paid to my early sowings of spinach (I was excited because we ate from it once - and then it ran to seed). The early carrots and the radishes were useless (not enough TLC from the gardener, given the incredibly dry, hot conditions in April/May). I also discovered why you don't water vegetables in bright morning sunlight when my second sowings of radish and rocket germinated - then scorched and died. But I did learn another more positive lesson for the future - rocket needs a bit of heat to germinate well, so later sowings (late April, in our case) are better.
The potatoes, in contrast, are a bit of a triumph. Although they never flowered, just yellowed in the heat, when I came to start digging them up the other day I was overjoyed to discover nice little 'Belle de Fontenoy' forming - I haven't investigated the 'Charlotte' yet. They are definitely better than last year, with an equally lazy approach. Same goes for the onions and garlic - all beginning to topple now, although some of the bulbs are not what you'd call 'prizewinning'.
But, as you saw above, the tomatoes are doing fine and I finally managed to get round to sowing some climbing French beans - they are always a guaranteed crop here, particularly if they get the rain we are having tonight at this, just the right, stage. (Thank goodness - I'm so sick of watering and dread our water bill in the winter!)
This is how I am growing my pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers and dill pickles this year. I'm using the last level on the vegetable slope - to date uncultivated - and Nick simply cleared it as well as he could. Then I laid cheap landscaping fabric and planted the youngsters through holes cut in it. The rain we are currently having will (fingers crossed) do the rest. To be honest, I'll be quite happy to be spared the excessive quantities of courgette we've had in the last two years. Picking and dealing with them (spinach and courgette soup - I hate waste) made me rather hot under the collar every couple of days.
The seed was sown in heat, but there was no heat to grow the young plants on (just our sunroom) and they probably put on a millimetre of growth per month. I laughed the other day when reading that I should pinch them back when they were 30cm high! Or was it 30cm above the first fruit? Can't remember - I can only dream of having aubergine plants that big.
There seems to be quite a lot of mole/vole activity in this area. Last week, on three consecutive days, my male cat brought home two voles a day - for the delectation of the small, new member of our household. They were welcomed with great excitement. However, I recently read in my weekly gardening mag that moles are sometimes responsible for damage to lettuce roots (the picture showed a wilting, nearly dead specimen that closely resembled my own). This vegetarian fancy on the part of the mole population was news to me. The verdict's out on the culprit, but the sweet peas are failing to find their feet because something's nibbling their toes - in spite of the hazel tripods I fashioned for them at the start of the season.
The box cuttings are not too hot - or actually the problem is that they were. Yours truly failed to provide them with enough shade, I think, during the worst of the hot weather (I had a shaded tunnel over them originally but eventually took it off impatiently). I did notice that they looked a lot greener and perkier in today's rain.
And what on earth is wrong with my brassicas this year (all of them - cabbage, sprouts, kale, you name it)? Yes, they've suffered from drought, whitefly, flea beetle. You name it, they've endured it - but they have done for the last three years. However, what's the funny colouring and scorching of the leaf edges? Noticeable on seedlings and mature plants alike. I'm considering phosphorus deficiency (ie poor root growth). Any thoughts?