July 2020 has been variable, with mostly cool weather. (All the heat this summer happened in May with temperatures close to 30 degrees, whereas June and much of July has been cool, overcast, with lots of summer rain and nighttime temperatures dipping to single digits). Allotment: Tons of butterflies this summer at the allotment. The damask rose is in full glory, with multiple blooms on long elegant stems. July is the month for harvesting raspberries and blueberries, both of which have done well this year. But otherwise growth on the patch hasn’t been great, with powdery mildew on the peas, and the squash fruit on the zucchino and the zucchini seem to rot on the vine. The broad beans grew well but the harvest was disappointing. Warnings of blight on tomato and potato plants too. B gave us a package of copper mix to spray onto our plants. Have to learn more about blight!! (Our best crops seem to be spinach, swiss chard, as well of course as the berries.) Back Patch: The back patch bats are back and doing dusky patrols of bugs over the back patch and to the side of the woods. House sparrows abound this summer, with signs of at least a second brood in late July (other juveniles were spotted in May). For flowers, July is the month of the orange day lily, which just go on and on and on. The large pink Asiatic Lily has come into flower in the third week of July and is magnificent, despite the rampages of red lily beetle. (Other lilies were harder hit and were stripped of all foliage and flowers). We planted a new flowering shrub gifted to us by B at the allotments, but it was dug up on the first night by curious foxes. We re-planted and then secured with heavy stones around the base of the plant to deter the foxes. We’re not sure what kind of shrub this it – it has slender branches and long leaves similar in appearance to willow – we’re waiting for the red blossom to show so we can have a go at identifying it.
The first week of July 2018 was scorching – over 30 degrees Celcius every day, and not much cooler at night. The roses have largely finished flowering and it’s a bit of a colourless time in the woods. The exception is the large bush of pink mallow which is still in flower but will soon need cutting back.
The meadow, however, is in flower, with tall spikes of chicory bearing small blue flowers. And tall spears of hollyhock line the edges of the meadow. The acanthus are flat on the ground exhausted by heat, sun and lack of rain. It’s not rained for at least 3 weeks. There was a 20 minute early evening shower but barely enough to dampen the soil.
On the Sunday we trimmed the pyrocanthus hedges closest to the circus circle railings, dropping the height of the hedge. I’d like to reduce it further, and over time replace with something else. There’s euphorbia at the corner and I cut deeply into that corner…
The second week of July has cooled down, but still without rain. At least the heat’s dropped and there’s a cooling (almost chilly) breeze. Blackberry along the New Oak Path have produced early ripe fruit – tangy and delicious!
My efforts focused on the back patch. The crocosmia were transplanted from the vegetable bed (near the artichoke and rhubarb) and moved to the front railing flower bed. The crocosmia give company to the back border closest to the railings with the ornamental grass which was also transplanted from the flat’s window box into the front flower bed closest to the railings. All in the section from the gate to just before the first pergola where we have a massive fruiting blackberry trained onto the pergola, along with roses.
At the flat, new grass has been planted into the window box – taller and not white and green variegated but rather copper coloured with green. Down in the back patch, pail of soil with the flowering wild onion (white flowering and lovely in early spring) was recovered from the ground dug out to accommodate the window box ornamental grass – and I still have to scatter that around – I think I’ll add a few drifts into the corner flower bed…
I also transplanted an astilbe (struggling in the back corner) to the edge of the path mid-way along which is bounded by the ceramic pots, brick path and heuchera bed. (Which in turn leads to the compost area behind and near the wooden fence). Not sure it will do better there, but fingers crossed.
A couple of euphorbia which self-seeded under the rose and blackberry arbour were dug out and transplanted close to the large euphorbia patch in the far corner bed. These plants seem impervious to transplanting, even in the most adverse conditions.
A pink flowering perennial lily was planted to side of the arbour, (towards the middle and just before the rather exuberant artemesia plant) and well watered to settle in.
I noticed when I was digging out the euphorbia from under the arbour that there are a few struggling lilies planted which are rather drowned out by the taller day lily and the shade cast by the blackberry. These need transplanting.
I also finally planted in the donated violet-flowering rose bush donated by the neighbours across the street. It had sat in full sun in a pail of water for over a week. I did try to move it out of the sun into shaded patches, but it just seemed too damned hot at over 30 degrees to dream about digging out a hole big enough for a rose. Anyway, it’s finally in there now. I weeded quite a bit around it’s new site, along the edge bushes including the white flowering shrub rose (which I dead headed but will need to cut back further) and the black currant (which was likewise trimmed substantially).
On Thursday 12 July I received a call from my comrade in arms. Apparently the pile of hay in the back patch has exercised some local neighbours who don’t like it. The claim made was that it was attracting rats. We’ve never seen any rats in the back patch, and this is helped no doubt by the fact that there’s no kitchen waste composted there at all. All the kitchen waste is composted in the woods area – far from the back patch. Anyway, the call came through and we duly went out and dealt with it. A cool greyish London morning had turned expectedly into a hot summer’s day.
The sweat poured off my face (hair is hot!). I worked alone for a while but in time my comrade appeared on his electric bicycle. We opened all six bales of hay and laid them out tidily along the uncultivated patches along the back patch. Last year we put down more than a dozen bales and they’ve near enough disappeared. Good for keeping the pernicious weeds down (eg bindweed), and conditioning the soil as the worms, in time, come up to nibble on the underside of the hay. Comrade wants to go out tomorrow and pick up a dozen or more bags of soil to put over the top of the hay. I demured but he’s insisting and – I hope – paying. So we’re going to do that tomorrow at around 11.
And after we do that on Friday, the next time I have the hose out (which may well be tomorrow unless we get the thunder showers Mr G says we’re forecast to get) I’ll give the whole hay patch a good dousing to super soak it and start the rotting down process. (This will also help make it less flammable, as we had a local arsonist a few years back, which is why I no longer put hay out along the railway path bed. So it goes but we don’t let the bastards keep us down.)
Since I was already outside, I started on weeding the bindweed etc from the back corner and then carried on all along the railway flower bed. I used the fork and tried to get as much root out as I could, but the ground was bone dry – even despite the long and generous watering I gave it yesterday.
I planted long overdue to be planted corm/bulbs for canna lily. Calla Lily Majestic – Zandtedschia Hybrids. This poor plant is supposed to flower from July to August, and wants to be planted in full sun or partial shade. We bought the bulbs at Morrisons ages ago – probably already then quite late, but then they languished, forgotten. Oh well, they have two chances – thrive or die. So I dug them into the empty spots behind the lavender at the start of the long railway flower bed. Four sets were planted in, at just over a foot between them. Good luck to them! (My mom had lovely white calla lily growing along the stone wall by their driveway at Lahinch, Ireland, so I do live in hope that they will recover from their horrid neglect and sprout growth, then come to flower for us next summer).
I cut more of the artemesia overgrowing the peony and small patch of lungwort and must make a plan to transplant that peony bush to a more open space.
I also cut back and hacked into the sage growing in the back flower bed (which leads to the long rhubarb patch) to clear space in front of the rambling rose along the fence and to give more space, air and light to the struggling lungwort planted in at the base of the rose.
TO DO… a running list
- transplant struggling lily from under arbour and plant into full sun patches along the front railing flower patch
- keep up weeding in back corner patch – vs bindweed and the other spreading weed
- topdress with compost & manure the rose and currant bushes at back corner
- topdress with compost & manure the rhubarb patches
- transplant the two smaller artichoke plants from rhubarb patch to the sunny back corner patch
- transplant the first rhubarb patch closer to the front of the bed into enriched soil (lots of added compost)
- transplant ceramic pot of succulent low-growing trailer to the railing edge of the long flower bed (to help keep soil in and discourage weeds at edges of plot).