The cotton is high

Midsummer is almost here, and I spent an hour on the plot last night weeding.

It’s the first time this year I’ve been able to do that – hitherto it’s been too wet. It was lovely to sit and pull up thistles at 9.30pm while watching the sun gently redden and sink.

Long summer evenings are the great – and probably only – compensation for living in high latitudes. For a few brief (all too brief) months, darkness is banished almost entirely. It seems to be daylight at all hours. I seize every opportunity to be outdoors. It’s magical.

In the crapulous dark depths of January, I try to remember that we’re merely paying the price for June.

PS It’s my birthday. Like Eeyore, I mention this to highlight the dreariness of an annual ritual that serves only to remind you of the transitory and fragile nature of life. Should anyone wish to bestow on me a punctured balloon in a jar, I’d like a red one.

Posted on 19th June 2012
Under: Summer | 9 Comments »

Late, late, late… and old

courgettesIt’s all late; I’m about three weeks behind with everything because of the shite weather of the last few weeks.

On the plus side, seeds are germinating at double speed in this heat. These courgette seeds appeared only six days after sowing; some kind of record, surely.

I did five hours at the allotment this weekend, and it dawned on me – for the first time in my life – that I’m getting a bit old for this shit.

I know, I know: 43 isn’t ‘old’. But the simple acts of repeatedly kneeling, bending, getting down, getting up (especially getting up)… they’ve started to feel rather harder work than they used to. When it’s 29C.

Anyway, we keep buggering on.

Posted on 27th May 2012
Under: Cucurbits, Summer | 15 Comments »

It ain’t ‘alf ‘ot

This is a very odd country.

On Sunday evening, the temperature was 10C. It had rained lavishly for six weeks. There was water everywhere – great pools of it sloshing all over the roads, pavements and paths. It was gloomy, dank and chilly. By 6pm, you could see your breath.

It was, in short, bloody miserable.

Fast forward 36 hrs to Tuesday morning. Welcome to mid-summer: 28C, scorching sun, drying earth, claggy shirt sticking to the sweat on your back. Bees buzzing. The co-mingled suburban smells of dust, wisteria and roasting asphalt.

We’ve had three days of it now, and it’s bliss. Albeit bliss tempered with fear – in the UK, you know it won’t last. “Three fine days and a thunderstorm”, as one of our monarchs famously described the British summer.

I’m not too bothered. Just having seen the sun, however briefly, is enough. It’s still there. It’s still possible.

We’re not – after all – living in Hell.

Posted on 25th May 2012
Under: Summer | 3 Comments »

The in-laws cometh… to save my arse

20110604-090635.jpgFrench beans are go today. About the only thing I’m bang up to date with. Most everything else is behind schedule.

I won’t whinge about the weather again. Ok, I will. It’s been bloody awful. Ants are destroying everything on the plot because the soil’s so dry. God knows if these beans will survive.

On the plus side, my in-laws are coming to stay in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to this. Counter-intuitive, I know, but bear with me: they’re keen vegetable growers. Thus I’ll shortly be benefitting from much-needed help from clued-up gardeners. And I’ll be working them hard for their supper.

*cackles evilly*

Almost as welcome as rain.

Posted on 4th June 2011
Under: Peas and beans | 3 Comments »

Postcard from the edge

Drooping fuschiasYou know what? I feel like giving up.

Didn’t think I’d ever type that, but there it is. I’m like these poor fuschias, wilting and drooping in this sizzling heat.

Even with an hour or more’s watering every evening, I’m barely keeping the allotment alive. Some things – the brassicas, for one – are doomed now, whatever I do: the cauliflowers are already producing those crinkly inner leaves that presage the formation of a useless, tiny, button-headed floret.

It’s all deeply disheartening, and it’s ruining what should – for any average, normal Brit – be a thrilling time: proper summers are rare as rocking horse shit hereabouts.

Instead of lolling about soaking up the rays, though, I’m busting my arse carrying cans of water. And when I’m not actually doing it, I’m dreading it.

So I can see a time in the near future, if this carries on, when I’ll be saying: “Enough already. Fuck it. Que sera, sera.”

I’ll essentially be writing off the plot for 2010. But then, since the asparagus I’ve not harvested so much as a rat’s arse anyway. So what have I lost?

Posted on 9th July 2010
Under: Rants, Summer | 25 Comments »

Seasonal nausea: Coming soon

Sweetcorn Corn is outrageously good this year. I’ve had two good-sized ears on nearly every plant (average is 1.5 most seasons).

Wife and I are scoffing two cobs apiece every night. I swear I’ll turn yellow any minute.

I don’t mind gluts (exception: courgettes), because it helps me eat seasonally. When I’m thoroughly sick of a prolific vegetable it’s easier to go without in the ‘off’ seasons; the relief of not eating the bloody thing lasts for months.

So it’s OK if I DO go yellow, or start vomiting at the sight of corn.

This is What Eating Seasonally Is All About.

Posted on 25th August 2009
Under: Gluts, Summer, Sweetcorn | 14 Comments »

Sweetcorn: Er… why?


Probably should have made this picture black and white for the full artsy-fartsy look. I’m totally chuffed with my corn this year. It’s growing like hell and looking gorgeous.

God alone knows why. Yeah, yeah, I know the weather’s been good for corn. But still. That can’t explain why it’s worked SO well this year.

Honestly, I know I shouldn’t interrogate my successes, but it’s hard not to spend most of your time – as a gardener – living in a state of quasi-senility. Mostly, I’m baffled to hell. Dunno what I did wrong – or right.

Oh shit. Maybe I AM senile already.

Posted on 29th June 2009
Under: Summer, Sweetcorn | 7 Comments »

Summer comes early…?

First year asparagus

If this is a taste of what’s to come, I’m all for it.

Today was sensational. Sunny, warm, barely a breath of wind. And the vegetables are loving it.

This is the asparagus I planted in early April. The fronds are a bit feeble, but that’s to be expected in their first year. They’ll thicken up well next season.

Sadly, I can’t attack ’em even then; you shouldn’t cut asparagus until its third year. Just as well I’ve got another established bed, which is still producing enough spears for dinner four times a week.

We’ll be SO sick of it by mid June.

Posted on 24th May 2009
Under: Asparagus, Summer | 8 Comments »

Heatwave approaching!

RosebudsHurrah! It’s going to be a long, hot summer. The UK Meteorological Office says so. It must be true!

Bloody hope so. After the deluges that passed for summers in 2007 and 2008, we’re owed a Jamaican-style tropical meltdown, I reckon. Confess I’m daring to hope, because I’ve had a feeling since February that the summer would be good. I can’t point to one single thing on the allotment that’s been, well, ‘different’. It’s just been a feeling.

There’s warm weather in the air. I’m sure of it.

Posted on 30th April 2009
Under: Flowers, Summer | 7 Comments »

Rose-tinted hindsight

Pink rose

No good reason for this photo. I took it at Wisley RHS garden in June, and recently came across it. Made me wistful for better days.

Days until Spring: 133

Days until Summer: Er, a hell of a lot more.


Posted on 8th November 2008
Under: Flowers | 2 Comments »