Another hot, dry day in London. The drought continues and no rain in sight for days. CNN reported it was 26°C in London today, but when we arrived it felt more like 34°C ; I had trickles of sweat running down my back simply standing still. But the combination of heat and sun (in conjunction with our ministrations and daily watering) has done wonders for the plants.
Sometime between yesterday late afternoon, when we left the plot, and this morning, when we arrived back, something truly magical happened.
Almost immediately upon arrival I espied ripe and ripening yellow raspberries – already there and ready to eat! I’d hardly expected to see unripe berries, let alone ripe and ready-to-eat raspberries! Wow! We harvested a small handful and had a snack right there and then.
The loganberries at the front of the rose arbour are swelling to perfection and turning rosy – one or two looked almost ripe enough to eat! But we left them for another day.
The zucchini have exploded into flower, with real little zucchinis already formed – will pick them soon for an early harvest. This will also encourage further flowering, which in turn means more fruiting and more frequent harvests.
And then, as all this change and growth and coming to maturity was not enough, to my astonishment I noticed a new overnight development on the tomatoes! Small (but not that small) green tomatoes hanging from the plant. And it’s not even June yet! Incroyable!
I regret that we didn’t get to M’s plot today. I thought we might get to it, but I got lost in time up at ours, and also had to shoot back to the flat for the online weekly work briefing. (Best to keep up to date with things, even though I’ve been furloughed during these quiet apocalypse coronavirus days, weeks and months.)
In some sense, lately time has felt static. But then – like last night – huge changes happen all of a sudden. In a blink of an eye. Change. Development. Growth. Irretrievable time – no going back.
Hope Jahren makes this point when she writes about seeds in her book Lab Girl . Jahren makes the totally logical but all the same starkly startling statement that each seed has one and only one chance. Every individual seed must choose well their moment of germination. That moment is a moment and it counts a lot: they only have one chance.
And so too with all the stages of a plant’s life – these bushes, vines, branches bear flowers first, each in their own form, shape, colour and scent, which in turn, at a precise click of time moving forward, transforms to a fruit – again as various as fruits can be.
Anyway, despite sticky-static time up at the plot, we still manage to accomplish quite a bit on every visit.
Today on top of the usual watering and weeding (and nature photography), we planted-in the last of the large tomato plants. Its pot had been sunk straight into the tomato plot, with a temporary stake, so we had to untie the stake and then transplant into a prepared hole that was enriched with a good few scoops of the rotted manure. We re-installed the stake and then tied it back in and watered well.
A wood panel that we retrieved a few weeks ago from the rubbish was staked and secured in front of a large squash planted in a large growing tub, to help ensure it doesn’t get jostled and tumble down the hill into the allotment plot below us. The panel looks quite cute – like a little gate – and had been the head/foot board of a small child’s crib someone had dissembled and thrown to the sidewalk.
With luck the squash vine will grow and be supported on this small wooden panel, which also helps keep the fruits off the ground and therefore less likely to be damaged by slugs and other creepy crawlies.
We enjoyed the present bloom, including the love-in-a-mist which truly is loved by all pollinators – bees, hoverflies, butterflies – the lot! (We’re brought a pot of nigella seed we’d collected from last year’s flowers from the allotment and are planning to scatter these into the new mid-lawn meadow/ wildflower patch.)
I also planted two seeded sunflowers into individual terracotta pots. This way I can move them around if they outgrow their location. I seeded many different types of sunflowers – some taller than others. So on verra.
We’d also brought up the hanging baskets I’d had squirrelled away for years – more stuff saved from landfill. I think I got them from Michelob years ago – someone else in the village was wanting to get rid of them. Brand new, mind you. So I tucked them away with all the rest of my useful hoarding like the old mirrors and glass shelving that’s become essential equipment in the growing shed.
I confess I’m not naturally a fan of hanging baskets – partly because they are simply not suitable to a publicly accessible woods garden, and also because I prefer to sink my pots into the earth by an inch or more to ensure they don’t totally dry out. But we had them on hand and the Malink was keen to get them up and hanging.
So he cut some of the black horticultural fabric to line the pots, and filled with the new bagged potting soil. He prepared two pots. After watering well I planted into each pot a started white zucchino plant.
These produce small white coloured squashes which look a little like flying saucers. I just know that the big guy’s going to love them!
Squash grow like a vine so should be good with hanging down (or growing up along the chain hanging supports).
I had thought to add nasturtium seeds to the hanging baskets, but after rummaging around found that I have run out of nasturtium seeds. So into one of the pots I added some old sweet pea seeds – you just never know whether an old seed is still a good seed until you sink it in soil and water and tend it for a fortnight or more…
An added bonus to the new hanging baskets is their location: we’ve got them hanging off branches of the holly tree and hanging over the compost heap. This means that all the dripping overflow of water from watering the pots will drip down into the otherwise bone dry compost pile.
In truth, I’m not sure these little white flying saucer squashes will get sufficient sunshine hanging as they do in the shade of the holly tree, but we’ll wait, watch and see how it goes.
Like the potted sunflowers, at least hanging baskets can be moved if we need to. Or, alternatively, we can take them down, transplant the squashes into proper growing beds, and replant the baskets with something else. And besides, the strawberries, once they finish fruiting, will start to set out runners, and so in time we can cut the new runners and sink these into the side panels of the hanging baskets to create hanging strawberry baskets! Oh my, ain’t it grand! Everything’s a moveable feast – plants, bricks, equipment, you name it!
Speaking of strawberries and feasts… we made strawberry & rhubarb jam last night. Simple and delicious. Just weigh your cleaned and chopped fruit (in more or less equal measures), then top with an equivalent combined weight with granulated sugar (which I reduced marginally) and add the juice of two squeezed lemons. Tie up the lemon pips in cooking muslin and suspend this into the jam for pectin. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until it reaches jam consistency. And voilà! You have jam!
Anyway, jam-making was yesterday. Back to today’s activities, in addition to all the other little things we accomplished, the big dude also managed to re-lay the stairs at the top near where the remedial water repairs had taken place. The wooden ‘bridge’ was removed and he relaid two large paving stones with bricks below. The whole thing is now solid and secure – no more wobbly or tipping paving slabs. It’s all solid and firm now.
And in the growing shed, the Thai basil that we seeded is doing well and soon will be ready to pot-up – maybe into a terracotta planter. (We have two short terracotta window planters which will soon be empty when we harvest the remaining radish.)
The tray of sunflower seeds are all coming up and need to be planted tomorrow or the next day – all the more reason to get going on M’s!
No sign of the flat leafed parsley seeds that I seeded mid-May, but I’m trying to be patient and I keep watering the flat of soil. I recall from the three rather weakly seedlings that I do have from an earlier seeding that parsley took a really long time to shown any signs of life.
Patience is worth it. And it’s a lesson I’m still learning. I’d given up on some earlier pots and then dumped all the trays back into a bucket to re-use when I did the rose cuttings. Now there are squashes growing in the rose cuttings! They might be pumpkins, so I’m going to repot and separate the rose from the squash seedling very soon.
I’ve also got more seeds to have a go with, including some small mild peppers, broccoli, more calvero nero, Brussel sprouts, and cucumbers. And packets of seeds for direct seeding too – but that must wait until either we get a grip on the beds at M’s plot, or harvest and turn over and re-sow the garlic plot.
And more brick paths to lay… more river stones to collect for the newt pond…
Oh my! I love it! Can’t wait to get started on the next little projects tomorrow.
Especially as the harvest season is well and truly started – we’ll harvest strawberries, raspberries, the first zucchini, a curly red lettuce…