A Productive Garden?

We have some heavy downpours forecast over the next couple of weeks, and yet the temperature will remain reasonably warm. Although it is a far cry from the bar-b-que weather we were starting to grow accustomed to, the flowers and vegetables in the garden will probably not complain. For those plants that were starting to struggle from the lack of water, a sigh of relief could almost be heard as the growing conditions became more favourable. As the lavender and roses come to an end the garden begins to warm up with the hot colours of the crocrosmia, rudbeckias and heleniums.  On the opposite side of the border the more subtle colours of the monardas, echinaceas and persicaria are also in full flower. Despite our bee hive coming to an end, there are still plenty of bees buzzing around enjoying the garden as much as we are.

In the kitchen garden the leeks are finally underway and growing well, whilst the onions look like they have just about given up hope, albeit a month early. The peas have long since finished and we should now be enjoying the climbing beans, if it wasn’t for the snails! Earlier in July I did sow a batch of dwarf beans just in case and these have recently been planted out. I will get a decent crop of green beans if it is the last thing I do, Sunday roast just isn’t the same with only four of them! The courgettes are finally growing well and I am even trying to grow an autumn squash in the greenhouse below the tomatoes, which are also now starting to produce fruit. Hopefully these will do better than last year.

On checking on how the cabbages were doing I noticed that something had been having a nibble at the outer leaves. It wasn’t just the outer leaves that had been nibbled, but something had tunnelled straight through the heart of my cabbage. On closer inspection I found a big, fat, caterpillar trying its best to stay out of sight. I was not impressed. Every year I cover the brassicas with insect proof mesh and every year a caterpillar or two always seems to find its way inside and create a catastrophe. Ok I might be exaggerating a little here, but when I only have enough room to grow a handful of cabbage, and I really do mean five or six, losing just one or two is quite a significant number. I ended up tossing the remains of the cabbage on the compost heap, along with the caterpillar. After hunting down and removing a further two caterpillars, the bed was re-covered with the netting.

In the midst of the kitchen garden I am growing a tower of sweetpeas. Undeterred by last year’s failure I decided to give these a go again this year. They have been a complete success and I am picking a bunch of sweetpeas every other day for the house. They smell divine.

As I turned my attention to tidying the flower border at the back of the garden I could hear a rustling of leaves. The sound was coming from underneath the hedge and when I bent down to see where the noise was coming from I came face to face with a baby blackbird. With no hesitation the bird hopped out in front of me and started to peck around the area I had cleared minutes earlier. Feeling a little sorry for the birds efforts in finding a bite to eat I retreated to the compost bin and scooped up one of the caterpillars that I’d chucked in earlier. I offered this to the baby blackbird who promptly ate it before flying off to the call of its parent nearby.

I would like to point out that I don’t make a habit of sending caterpillars to their doom by feeding them to the birds. This was a one off occurrence and as this seems to have been a particularly good year for butterflies, given the number I’ve seen on my lavender alone, I hope you will understand why I had no sense of guilt in doing so.

A little sunshine can go a long way and butterflies can lay up to 300 eggs. And after warm, bright weather in June and sunny conditions in July, you may see small tortoiseshells, peacocks, red admirals and commas in your garden, not to mention the infamous cabbage white.

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