Six On Saturday 28th July

Would it be rude of me to use the ‘R’ word given the extraordinary hot, dry weather searing through so much of Europe at the moment? Here in northern Spain – somewhat ironically – there has been no shortage of wet stuff falling from the sky; in fact, for weeks and weeks we wondered if it would ever stop. (For anyone tired of lugging watering cans now cursing me soundly, I’d like to point out we’ve also been living under mostly cloudy skies, grateful for the tiniest scraps of sunshine). It might be warm and incredibly humidย rather than hot and dry,ย  but the upside is that the landscape is still lush and green and everything is growing like stink. Ten days away to attend the most beautiful West Sussex wedding was followed by another ten days trying to get the jungle-masquerading-as-a-garden back under some sort of control. Needless to say, we came home to delights and disasters so here are my six for today.

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I’ll start with the scene of devastation that greeted us in the polytunnel: every single tomato plant collapsed, brown and stinking, as a result of blight. It was no great surprise as blight is endemic in this area and this was our third and last attempt at growing a crop, a sort ofย  ‘do or die’ affair. Die it was, then. It’s a bit frustrating but I’ve filled the space with spare pepper and chilli plants and we ate what unblemished fruit there was. Forget chutney, green tomatoes cooked in olive oil with warming spices and finished with a dash of balsamic vinegar are truly delicious. Honestly.

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If nothing else, the Great Tomato Collapse had me tidying up the tunnel a bit; I staked the aubergines and peppers and gave them a good feed with comfrey tea, then turned my attention to encouraging some of the crazy ‘Melba’ melons upwards. . . and found some hidden treasures under all that foliage. Three fruits (so far) on five plants will hardly make the headlines but it’s a bit of fun. Everyone needs a little bit of frivolity in the garden, surely?

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So we have no tomatoes, no potatoes (there’s a two-year ban in place thanks to the Guatemalan potato moth) and the caterpillars have devastated the brassicas in our absence. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Even so, I love this time of year in the veg patch; what is better than wandering around, trug in hand, foraging bits and pieces for dinner? We have more food than we know what to do with and although our veg wouldn’t win any prizes, they are fresh and wholesome and totally delicious. For me, this is what it’s all about!

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It’s good to see the hibiscus flowering again, they are such pretty things. We have several bushes – all of the common hybiscus syriacus variety –ย  and although they’ve been planted in daft places (such as the one in the background of my photo, struggling for light under the monster kiwi), they never fail to please. We have a couple of pink ones but my favourites are the whites with those waxy centres and astonishing ink blot of deepest pink dye.

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At the risk of sounding a bit tongue in cheek, Roger has been proudly admiring his nuts this week. In late winter, he lay a hazel hedge; it was quite a feat as the trees were really too tall but they have greened up into a thick, verdant hedge that has already housed several birds’ nests and is now flaunting clusters of large, frilly nuts. They are very beautiful,ย  looking more like a Kentish cob (well, a filbert really) than common hazel to me so we should be in for a treat if we can beat the wildlife to them later in the year.

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Finally, what a delight to return home to the gorgeous intensely blue abundance of agapanthus. These are ‘Northern Star,’ a hardy variety which flowered amazingly well in our former garden on a wet, windswept Welsh hillside but are ten times happier on our Spanish mountainside (mmm, also rather wet and windswept this year, it must be said). They were given to us on our son Sam’s 18th birthday so there was something lovely to come back from celebrating his wedding seven years later to find they had burst into their best ever show of blooms. Perhaps they knew? ๐Ÿ™‚

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It’s time now to head across to joinย The Propagator ย  and find out what great things other gardeners have to share from their gardens this week. Happy gardening, all! ๐Ÿ™‚

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20 thoughts on “Six On Saturday 28th July

  1. Lots of rain here this morning. The heatwave is officially over. So maybe you’re going to get some sunshine now. Though – better lush than scorched! Lovely hibiscus. Our last plant died last winter, the Beast from the East was too much for it. Have you tried growing Gem squashes instead of potatoes? We’re going to give them a go next year. Roger is quite right to admire his nuts, they look great ๐Ÿ˜‰ I wonder if we ever to get to lay a hedge. Some of it is now 2 metres high. I think that’s what we’re aiming for all around.

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    1. I’m sure that rain will be so welcome to many UK gardeners and much as I don’t resent your heatwave, it would be lovely to have a blast here. The lush growth is great but things really are shouting out for sunshine. I think Gem squashes will definitely be on the list for next year as the potato ban is in place for two years, given how well squash (usually) do it would make sense. It sounds like your hedges are getting there . . . and hopefully you will eventually have that nut harvest, too!

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    1. That blue is such a gorgeous shade, isn’t it? There is a long stretch of road near Asturias airport planted with blue and white agapanthus and they are nearly as tall as me. I might put a few in the ground and see what happens . . . ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. O, that blue is quite something. If you do plant some of those in the ground, you must report, as everyone is saying they do better a bit confined. So devastating about your tomatoes, but your recipe sounds pretty good, so will give it a try. Hope you get sun soon.

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    1. I will certainly report back! The clumps are so huge that I can afford to try a few in the ground, they certainly seem to go well locally so maybe it’s a climate thing. I think they’d look rather spectacular with some orange crocosmia that grow wild here. Give the green toms a go, I know it sounds a bit weird but they really are good! ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. I’m originally from the American south where we fry green tomatoes (thus the name of the movie) but we bread them, which we also do w/zucchini (courgette). So doesn’t sound weird at all. Sounds delish!

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      2. I have real problems commenting on Blogspot (browser issues still not resolved after much trying) but want to say I LOVE your post, it made me smile! I also had some old fleece in my spinning box (so glad I’m not alone in these dark arts . . . ) so tried it as an anti-slug device in the tunnel a couple of years ago. Bad idea: it just made little duvets for the slimeballs to hide under. Frogs are definitely the better option! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Bad luck with your tomatoes. Lost all mine last year the same way, decided not to grow outside again. Bit worried to hear yours succumbed in the poly tunnel. I’m hoping mine will be Ok in the greenhouse.

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    1. It’s so hard to know what to do for the best here, the soil is full of blight and the warm mist is perfect for the spores which is why we hoped the tunnel would help. We will maybe try containers of sterile soil in one last attempt EVER next year! Our neighbours slather their plants in copper (Bordeaux mixture, I assume, which I thought had been banned) but I’m not going down that route. Oh well, there’s life beyond toms . . .

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      1. It’s such a disappointment, especially if everyone else is smugly bragging about their beautiful beefsteaks. Better luck this year, maybe? I looked at the price of blight-resistant seed and decided it would buy a lot of scrummy Spanish tomatoes. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      2. Life beyond tomatoes? Bite your tongue. I wondered why I have luck w/mine while others are gnashing teeth, beating breasts, etc. The spores must have a height limit like carrot flies – is that right? (I grow mine in in containers.)

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      3. Lucky, lucky you! I don’t think there’s a height limit as the spores can be windblown over long distances and are far worse in wet weather. The warm, damp climate here is blight heaven! Greenhouse-grown toms are often at less risk but once blight is in, they collapse quickly because of the high humidity cue misery in our polytunnel. It’s a real pain but on the upside I’ve just made a huge batch of cucumber and yogurt soup – we might be tomless but we have cukes coming out of our ears! Great thing about gardening, there’s usually a bright side! ๐Ÿ™‚

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