Saturday, 23 August 2008


The summer has had its share of critics again this year, mainly due to the short periods of sun before the rains came to spoil the sunbathers fun. For the gardener, it has been almost perfect though.
Prolonged dry hot weather puts a strain on the roots of established plants and can kill off tiny seedlings. Drying winds can scorch leaves and blow away light soils. Heavy rain for too long can wash out nutrients and damage soil structure, cause roots to rot and fruits to bloat and split.
What we soil toilers look for is steady rain, straight down not diagonal with the wind, preferably overnight followed by sun mid morning to late evening.
One day of continued rain in a week of warm, not scorching sun, would also fit the bill. Just make sure the rain comes on a work day!
That routine of regular warmth and light mixed with watering is to plants what regular three meals a day are to us. Famine and feast is not healthy for either subject.
As a result, my runner beans have been prolific and tender and made my friends who don't grow very attentive.
My courgettes are cropping daily and the french climbing beans are surprisingly good. Sadly, the rain favours the old enemy too. Slugs have put paid to most of my second sowing lettuce and made interesting shapes from my radishes.
Intriguingly, my larger Oriental radish have been largely ignored by pests. The harsh prickly leaves don't tempt the mollusc mouth or the flying lace makers. The white roots are not on their menu either. Now, with the supermarkets charging 79p per root for Mooli and almost £2 for a pound of rather tough looking runners, I'm finding that from the plot to the plate, every little helps as someone said somewhere...
Now, with all this talk of runners and things oriental, we will soon see the Beijing Olympics monopolising our screens. One historical benefit of foreign travel has been the introduction of new species to our gardens. Why not have your own international conference and look at the latin names of plants growing in and around your garden. Any thing bearing Chinensis or Orientalis has been named after the place it was discovered, China.
Maybe sow some oriental vegetables. The climate right now is perfect and matches sowing conditions found across Asia at sowing time. Oriental Cabbage, Pak-Choi and Mizuna leaves are all as easy to grow as lettuce but watch out for our native pests, they like a take away as much as anyone!

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