Regular visitors to the croft garden know that I go AWOL from time to time. This is usually because I’m busy with other activities, which can range from being chained to the desk as a serious paperwork deadline approaches or being press-ganged to work on a building project to coaxing a reluctant muse to provide the impetus to write. I have not been sitting with nose pressed to the window watching the rain fall like stair-rods or the all-enveloping mist roll in, nor sitting by the fire watching the tennis or even challenging the muse to think of new phrases to describe the colour of the sky (I’d better not use the description used in an infamous book title, it would boost my blog stats for the wrong reasons). So I’m not going to mention the weather or the fact that the average temperature for May and June (so far) is 10°C and that I’ve been gardening wearing numerous layers and a wooly hat. There has been no gardening up-date because once I’ve described a garden where only the weeds and grass are growing, and photographed the best bits from the most flattering angle I can manage, there is really nothing to say which would not deserve the epitaph of meaningless, trivial dribble.
As promised in my last post I decided to be positive and plough on regardless, unfortunately I am probably guilty of plant genocide. Although my plants had been hardening-off for weeks, most were either decapitated or desiccated by the wind, grazed into oblivion by molluscs, drained of life by aphids (isn’t it too cold for aphids?) or disappeared without trace (probably on the first ferry to Oban). The rest have survived but do not appear to be growing. The old hands, those that have survived rigorous natural selection over a number of years, are looking a bit battered but are producing some flowers and a little food for a very small band of insects.
The vegetable garden remains dismal. To be positive the broad beans and peas are diminutive, but are at last producing flowers. This could be a final desperate act, which may be in vain as there are very few insects, so I may need to get the paint brush out. There is rhubarb, of course and plenty of chives, mint and loveage – a combination to challenge any inventive chef.
Fortunately the polytunnel is keeping the proverbial wolf from the door. We have harvested the garlic and new potatoes and have been enjoying carrots, beetroot and various salad crops. The rate of production is slow, but the results are phenomenal. The new potatoes look like a late season main crop; the flavour is acceptable but the texture is very floury. I’m beginning to wonder whether I was sent the correct variety.
The French beans are thinking about flowering and at long last the courgette is producing flowers. This may the year I feast upon stuffed courgette flowers. The tomatoes have just produced their first flowers and the peppers and cucumbers are growing strongly. We are, however, going to need a radical change in the weather to get a decent crop of fruit. Could be a good year for green tomato chutney.
I know we don’t have the monopoly on the poor summer weather, and to be fair we have had the odd sunny, if not particularly warm, day. If you live north of the Great Glen you can’t expect a Mediterranean climate and when the summer temperatures are below average and it is windier and/or wetter than usual, gardening is going to be more challenging than usual. We are consistently informed that individual weather events are not necessarily indicative of climate change and may be the result of “normal cyclical changes”. Whatever the reason, this year has certainly given me an insight of the problems that we will face if our summers become consistently cooler and wetter. Gardeners are adaptable, but the consequences for those responsible for growing our food are potentially much more serious. So on that cheery note, I will saunter off to the polytunnel to sow some more carrots. Growing carrots under cover in June? Just practising for the apocalypse!