I had always imagined that a vegetable garden needed constant attention for it to thrive, so my spring efforts were somewhat of an experiment, knowing full well that I would be absent for a good three months at the start of the growing season. I had diligently planted a whole array of seeds and seedlings before my departure, tucking them in with a good layer of mulch and through the wonders of modern technology, 3 minutes of water each morning through fifty meters or so of leaky hose.
From the cool of the UK I watched the weather maps as a heat wave passed overhead, temperatures frequently reaching the mid 30’s and several weeks without a drop of rain. Would my tiny quantity of irrigation be adequate? Had the sun fried everything to a crisp? would the deer have found a bounty of tender shoots and ravaged everything in site? I could only wait and see.
Prior to my return, the weather had broken and a series of storms had passed over the region giving everything (left?) a good dousing. The weather continued to be warm, but the excessive heat had passed for the time being.
Wow, what a wonderful surprise. I strimmed my way towards the vegetable beds, clearing the thigh length grass and weeds as I went, to be greeted by an a bountiful array. There was a massive carpet of squash and pumpkin leaves reaching the length of the plot, numerous orange and red mounds protruding through the greenery. Spires of swiss chard thrusting up through the weedy undergrowth, hints of beetroot leaves poking through - the tenderest, sweetest beetroot that I have tasted in an age, large as a fist and without a blemish in sight. They had sheltered well under the weedy layer. The french bean seeds had germinated, done their thing and plump pods of semi dried beans awaited harvest. They will do well for soups and stews later on. A second sowing followed immediately and are now flowering several weeks on. The lettuce had thrived and produced great flower heads of fluffy seed that was caught and blown by the breeze, I’ll not have to sow lettuce again for a while I imagine. Four tiny tomato seedlings, had decided to stay too, planted the size of a match stick and abandoned, I hadn’t imagined for a moment anything would come of them. Left to their own devices, without support or training, they had spread wildly, crossing paths and scrambling through the current bushes. Garlands of green tomatoes nestled in the foliage, here and there with the faintest hint of red. Again, they have continued well, providing a bountiful crop for over a month, unfortunately recently hit by blight after a few wet weeks, the remaining crop has been immediately transformed into jars of chutney.
There are varieties that are missing in action. No carrots, new zealand spinach or parsnips. I imagine that they either didn’t germinate or got crowded out by the weeds. Many seeds need frequent watering till they become established in a garden situation, others may have been discovered by the birds, slugs, snails or smothered by mulch.
Now that the bulk of the weeds have been cleared. More accurately I should say reduced, a few late starters are emerging. Not surprising really as the dense weed layer was at least waist high in places. Brassicas are taking up the challenge and forging ahead, I remember last year, they did very little till the cool of the autumn arrived, then forged ahead to produce admirable. It looks as if we’re heading the same way this year. Curly kale, savoy cabbage, hopefully brussel sprouts here we come. I say hopefully, as my random line free planting doesn’t allow for easy labeling, so it’s a case of wait and see.
As the season progresses I keep sowing a few more seeds, tucking in a few more transplants of things for later on. It’s a never ending process, cultivating food, harvests need to continue for as long a time as possible and with as much variety as can be achieved. The variables are enormous so it’s always an exciting challenge.
When I find the lead to connect my camera I’ll post some photos and you’ll see the transformation over the last few months. It’s great to be back to see what has been occurring in my absence.
Elsewhere the weeds have grown and it almost looked like it did when I first bought the property. This time, however, it’s quick strim to get the place back into some sort of order. Those back breaking hours of bramble root chasing certainly paid off. I’d certainly recommend taking the time to dig out that knobbly bit of root where all the bramble stems spring from, as opposed to just strimming the stems back, relentlessly for years and years.