After a week of heatwave conditions of over 30 degrees in London, the weather turned on Thursday 13 August with spectacular thunder, lightning and torrential rain.
No doubt the Hungarian chilli plant enjoyed the sweltering conditions more than we did, and is now showing signs of fruit forming. I checked and these little chilli peppers are spicy without being eye-wateringly hot hot hot, and will mature from their present light green to a warmer red tone as they ripen.
Chilli plants are listed as annuals, and some sites recommend pulling the plants and drying all fruit by hanging the plant upside down, but we are going to experiment and move the pot to our growing shed, which typically seems to be about 5 to 7 degrees warmer than outdoor conditions. They will keep our two potted lemon trees company in the growing shed through the winter. Or at least, that’s the plan!
Yesterday we took advantage of the cooler, grey overcast conditions yesterday to finally plant the echium into the back patch flower bed. Transplanting is a bit like open heart surgery for plants, so doing it on overcast cooler days helps to secure success. Plants hate nothing more than to endure stress when the sun is hot and the heat’s high.
The great Malink created fox-proof conditions by surrounding the new planting with a wire mesh protective guard and he also lined the ground surrounding the area with trimmed prickly rose and blackberry vines. (Prickly cuttings did the trick a year ago to discourage foxes from repeatedly digging around a tree on the circus.). We’ve already experienced fox damage this summer when they took it upon themselves to dig out a planted shrub gifted to us by a fellow allotmenteer. We had to replant it twice before protecting the whole area with large rocks.
Why do foxes dig out the plants? Who knows the mind of a fox, but we figure it’s because we’ve turned over the ground and softened it all and watered, which makes all your newly planted areas ripe picking for worm-hungry foxes. We’ve heard it said that a good portion of a London urban foxes’ diet is based on eating worms and other invertebrates! From what we can see of their behaviour, we are willing to agree. From the regular appearance of large holes in the ground in the woods and back patch, one wonders if worms are perhaps their favourite delicacy – they sure do go to town to dig them up! And yes, in case you’re curious – we spied three adult-sized foxes investigating all our newly planted areas, but even though they sniffed and explored, they didn’t linger long on the areas protected with prickles and thorny cuttings. The super-Malink may in the end have figured out how to finally out-fox our beloved but wily and occasionally destructive foxes.
While he was busy with the new echium in the meadow area, I dug out some of the creeping mint under the far pergola. I set a brick boundary dug deep into the soil to discourage further mint incursions, turned over the soil, picked out large stones, and then planted out three of the plants I’ve been nurturing from tiny plugs, including a pot of perennial Aquilegia Mrs Scott Elliot (aka Columbine or Granny’s Bonnets), a biannual purple-flowering Digitalis Dalmatian (aka Foxglove) and a perennial purple flowering Verbena Buenos Aires.
Waiting in the wings at the allotment nursery area (a shady sheltered spot tucked in behind the blackberry screen at the top terrace) are more of all of the above, as well as Crazy Daisy Leucanthemum (daisies) and Primadonna Rose Echinacea.
There’s more turning over, picking stones and weeding to do before the final of these grown-on plugs can go into the flower beds. Also planned is the digging out of some of the thicker patches of day lilies in the beds along the railway path, as I’d like to spread these throughout the whole length of the beds but right now they are concentrated in the first half of the long flower bed from the first pergola to halfway down the path. Moving the day lilies will make room to dig out and divide the gladioli, which this summer have not flowered well and are very likely overcrowded.
We also have two large tubs of asiatic lilies at the allotment that flowered nicely this summer up there, but will also have to be moved and dug into the flower beds before autumn’s over. We’d thought the asiatic lilies would be safer to develop at the allotment due to an infestation of red lily beetle in the back flower beds. But careful monitoring revealed the presence of red lily beetle up at the allotments as well. As there’s no space for perennial flowers at our small allotment plot, they will make their way to the long perennial beds along the railway path, and I’ll just have to monitor carefully through spring and summer next year.
At the allotment, things continue to develop and get better and better bit by bit. We spied a small pallet out in the rubbish and scooped it up. It made an admirable pop-up party table we hosted a small gathering for other allotmenteers in early August, but has now been painted with weather-proofing and slotted into place to create a nice even step into the growing shed.
The step will also provide additional extra seating for our next guests. It’s worked out so well that we are now keeping our eyes out for a second small pallet to add in front of this one. The ground at the top terrace is still sloping so anything we can do to create level spaces at that level can only improve things.
The bar stool was also a great find in the garbage. In fact, we have two matching ones which thankfully stack one on the other. We’ve set it up at the side door of the shed. The slate tiles were also ‘found objects’ we’ve put to good use. The slate absorbs an incredible amount of heat from the summer sun, and I may use them as heat sinks elsewhere on the plot….