Midsummer Harvest

Garlic Red Donetsk
Garlic Red Donetsk

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 woolly 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 lovage – 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!

16 thoughts on “Midsummer Harvest

  1. My peas and beans have just popped out of the ground, if we have a few weeks nice weather I may get a harvest 😏

    • All we need are a couple of weeks of settled weather – I’ll settle for some sunshine and 15C!

  2. Dreadful weather here in North Yorkshire. Everything is behind and we have no plums at all this year.

    • There appears to be an epidemic of gardener’s weather gloom this year. No plums – that really is serious!

  3. Well you have some nice looking veg but oh dear, gardening in a wooly hat in June is a bit grim. I hope you will get some proper Summer soon.

    • Thank you – what we have is good, but I’ve been looking forward to the first baby courgettes and beans for weeks! Next month I’ll probably be trying to cope with the glut!

  4. Hello Christine, You have my sympathies, but it’s great that you’ve retained a good sense of humour. But I absolutely agree about issues of commercial food production. Although I’m not a climate change sceptic, and sense that the changes we’ve seen recently are more volatile and unpredictable, I do worry that on recent evidence here, we seem likely to get shorter more challenging growing seasons. There’s not so much talk these days of planting Mediterranean plants is there? I must check out the current thinking on when the next ice age is expected…Still we have at least had some decent brightness here….but I guess it will all turn round soon and we’ll be deluged, whilst the sun shines with you,
    Best wishes

    • Hello Julian, your garden is looking lovely as usual, I had a quick look over the garden fence the other day to remind myself of what is possible! I was being polite to th climate change sceptics as I have no doubts as to who is responsible. This summer will go down as valuable experience as what to expect in a cool summer, but who knows next month could be very different with a heat wave and a drought!

  5. That does sound challenging. If it’s any consolation it’s not all bunting and frolics in the south west either. If the mollusc population could be turned into a satisfying meal I would be laughing. Mild wet winter. They’re having a field day. And now a pair of deer have decapitated half the sweetcorn. It’s lucky us gardeners are a resilient breed.

    • I don’t think it’s a great summer anywhere along the west coast and as you observe if it’s not the weather it’s the molluscs or something a little larger. Fortunately the island’s deer have not ventured this far west yet, but it is a very good year for rabbits! One enterprising crofter on Barra is actually exporting snails to France. I just have slugs and it’s too cold to use the nematodes, so I may have to resort to the beer traps.

  6. This does sound cold, what is the usual temperature you would expect? Hope the sunshine levels pick up!

    • Not t-shirt weather! Over the last four years the high temperatures for June have ranged from 18.5 to 22C with an average mean temperature of 12.5C Yesterday was our warmest yet 14.3C, no sunshine but no wind! July and August are usually warmer, so we remain optimistic! Our weather is so variable, when it is good it is fabulous but when it is bad it is foul! Still wouldn’t live anywhere else!

  7. Well I hope it has warmed up since you wrote this! We too had a cold June but July has been hot and sunny and everything has suddenly decided it is having a ball.

    • July is definitely better than June, but still cooler than usual. I don’t really mind, I’m happy with 15C preferably with some sunshine and no wind.

  8. I have been allotmenteering for fifteen years and every year is a challenge in a different way. This year it has been lack of rainfall. Ok if you’re prepared to stand wafting a hose around which I am not. Tomorrow (24 July) we are forecast 20mm of rain. We shall see. My ground is so parched it’ll probably just run off but it may fill up the water butts and refresh the pond. I do hope by now you’re feasting on courgettes and French beans and enjoying summer.

    • Sorry, I think we must have had your allocation of rain! Well there are good years and bad years, and last year was a cracker and this is the worst one we’ve experienced here! Oh well, French beans are good so are the courgettes!

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