RETURNING from a week away showed just how little my garden and allotment need me: they hardly looked any different.
Yes, lots of the marigolds needed deadheading and the courgettes had turned into marrows, but generally, all had carried on perfectly well without my interference. Marrows are a vegetable I have learned to love since I started gardening. Slice lengthways, scoop out seeds, fill with browned mince and rice, sprinkle with cheese, bake in the oven. Delicious.
I’d like to claim it was planned. But in reality I had resigned myself to dead veg and droopy dahlias. The rain may have helped but on visiting the allotment this week I found out how little impact the heavy showers have had. The ground is bone dry and solid beneath the top half inch of damp dust.
Nonetheless, I needed to dig.
I’m trying something out with my strawberries, which have been in a couple of years and have become very clumpy this summer. Usually you can root the runners from established strawberry plants, which are like little clusters of leaves on a long stem which you can push into the soil and then sever from the parent once rooted to get a brand new plant.
My fruit beds have become very overcrowded and messy, so I thought I’d try splitting the big clumps instead. They lent themselves to the reduction well, as there were many plantlets that could be easily separated by gentle pulling, keeping a good amount of root and soil on each. From eight plants I now have 28!
Strawberry plants don’t last forever, and it may be that these have exhausted themselves, but by replanting and watering in well now, it should allow them to establish before winter and hopefully we’ll have better yields of berries next June.
The crops are coming well, and this week we’ve been eating potatoes, shallots, garlic, onions, carrots, beetroot, runner and French beans, courgettes, cucumbers, spring onions, tomatoes, raspberries and blackcurrants, all home-grown.
I made some fairy cakes and mixed in some of the blackcurrant jam that we made and the cakes looked normal on the outside but were purple in the middle.
The beans are still managing to crop despite my blackfly infestation. I don’t spray, and the wildlife is now helping out instead.
The ladybird larvae are more numerous than I’ve ever seen, as you can see in the photo taken on my mobile phone. There are around eight and an adult on one small section. They eat huge amounts of aphids, and are your greatest garden ally. It’s hard to believe those bizarre-looking bugs turn into our beloved round ladybirds.
PS: I’m on a mission this week as, by coincidence, several people have asked me to identify mystery plants in their gardens. I’ll update next week, so in the meantime, if you have any photos you want to email to me of plants you aren’t sure about, I’ll happily add them to the list.