A wet weekend was forecast, punctuated with thundery showers, and indeed Saturday saw a few squalls pass through, so when I slipped into the garden after breakfast on Sunday it was with the anticipation of soon being driven into the greenhouse by rain.
However, the sun shone, and clouds scuttled fast across blue skies, as I hauled a few weeds out of the ornamental borders, then set to some more intensive and long overdue weeding of the vegetable garden. Some eight hours later, tired of limb and with all our municipal garden waste bags overflowing, I finally took my leave of the garden. A satisfying day’s work, with just a brief pause early in the afternoon to make and eat a simple salad of goat’s cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, basil and borage flowers, all freshly picked from the garden or greenhouse – except the cheese of course. Moments like these are what summer is all about.
News reports that evening showed flash floods and downpours across the country, so remarkable good fortune had shone upon us all day, along with the sun. It was high time to tackle the weeds, some almost waist high, which threatened to take over the vegetable beds, and beneath the cabbage cages I found and removed dozens of tiny caterpillars, already starting to make holes in cauliflowers and the tallest Cavolo Nero. Fortunately these seemed to be the pale green caterpillars of the Small Cabbage White, which although harder to spot are laid singly rather than in clusters.
The black kale plants needed thinning while I was in amongst them, so I transplanted two unblemished plants to a position outside the full cages, where I must be particularly vigilant about checking for and removing caterpillars, as white butterflies wheel across the garden now whenever the sun shines. It’s not just Cabbage Whites sipping nectar from our flowers though; the usual hordes of small tortoiseshells are visiting regularly, and we’ve seen Commas in the garden for the first time. Verbena bonariensis seems to be the favourite port of call, even usurping the buddleia which is usually first choice.
At the start of the weekend, the previously green and healthy remaining potato plants suddenly showed signs of blight, stems and foliage crumpling and turning brown almost as we looked at them, so while I tackled the undergrowth, King of the Hill dug up the remaining second earlies, Kestrel, and the maincrop Desiree potatoes. We laid them out on the potting bench in the greenhouse to dry, still fearful of imminent rain, turning them after about an hour, then put them into paper sacks to store.
Considering the wet conditions this year, with high rates of slugs and snails ensuing to take advantage, the potatoes look remarkably unscathed. We have made two applications of slug nematodes to the vegetable garden after several years of tubers too riddled with damage to eat, and they seem to have done a remarkable job at protecting this crop against all the odds.
The box of seeds that I carried down to the greenhouse, to sow some late crops and start some more perennials whenever the rain drove me indoors, was later carried back to the house untouched as I ran out of weekend. Unbelievably, there are still a few more hours of weeding to finish in the vegetable patch too, so if the evenings stay dry I will have plenty of work on my hands, although I half hope for a spell of rain to give me leave to stay indoors and watch some Olympic action.