Monday, 30 June 2008

Feelin' hot hot hot!

Oohhhh, isn't it warm?
The sun is out and the sky is azure blue. Time to roll up the sleeves, pull on the shorts and catch some rays will we weed and seed.
Ok. Stop right there.
We're very good at preaching safety in this country, some say to the point of absurdity but i will give great creedence to the advice we get regarding the strength of the sun. I come from a background of rolled up sleeves and dirty fingernails. My father was a very succesfull electrician but hated being restricted to an office when he was promoted. If he wasn't getting his hands dirty, he didn't feel justified in taking the pay. It didn't stop him taking the pay, he just felt more like he'd earned it if he'd rolled up his sleeves and prodded something.
Now I follow in that in some ways, stop laughing at the back, but I can still enjoy working in an office or getting stuck in on the shopfloor.
The problem with that, I discovered this week, is that the sun is not discerning about those it hurts. We've all seen, even had, those farmer's tans. The bronze brown mix that looks like a good coating of creasote has been applied to our forearms. The type of tan our mothers called 'weathered'.
That leathery look may give the impression we are weather proofed but it hides a multitude of things. The worst being what I am now awaiting a hospital appointment to investigate.
Yes, skin cancer can hit even the hardiest of gardeners. No amount of outdoor experiene can protect you, you an't develop an immunity, it respects no race or age.
We've seen the adverts and the lealfets advising mothers to cover up children and we've seen little troops of schoolkids trotting off to school in those desert caps with the neck shades but we are just as much at risk as they are.
So, where sleeves, cover your head regardless of how much hair you have, remember your neck and the base of your spine will be exposed as you bend over the plot.
Slap on some sunblock, slip on a shirt and slop on a hat.
Ok, on with the show.
The new potatoes were a mixed result. The first row I dug was very productive, giving me a good crop of nice duck egg sized Rocket tubers. The second was a little less charitable, despite being harveted a good fortnight later. The third row, last planted and harvested, was a wash out. I barely gathered as many tubers as I planted.
The Desiree maincrops look very healthy so far so I hope to make up the deficit later in the season.
The radish did well and I've sown a third crop this week. I also have some Mooli oriental radish coming along nicely. Again, a successional sowing was made this week. We've been enjoying the lettue 'All Year Round' for a few weeks now. Again, more sown and a few late plants put out.
The much anticipated runner beans are starting to form beans now, so I've been chucking buckets of water on twice daily to keep them tender.
The last of the early peas are being collected now and the ground that the broad beans were in has been cleared and I'm contemplating what I should follow them with. I have some brassica plants to transplant so they may go in there.
The sweet peas, oh the lovely sweet peas!
I've been cutting blooms for a couple of weeks now and the system i use to grow them has proven a winner again. I cordon grow them. This means one stem only per plant, tied in to a cane for support and anything that takes from the plants strength, such as tendrils or side shoots, is removed. The result is longer stems, larger blooms and a longer cropping/picking period. It's a system I came across when I tried to grow for show a few years back.
The best part of the week was finaly finding my Blackberries are ready to pick. My wife loves Balckberrying and we often take long autumn evening walks with small punnets to gather a hedgerow harvest. This year, the best crop will be from my plot. My Black Butte variety has the largest fruits of any variety, over 2 inches in length each. I can happily report that the size doesn't affect the sweet juicy flavour either!

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