Tuesday, 19 August 2008

In the dock

I keep hearing how the miserable, wretched, soggy so-called summer weather this year is, "good for the garden" and in particular is producing bumper crops of massive vegetables. Well not in my garden it isn't. All I have to show for it is about 200 small, sour, unrelentingly green tomatoes with not even the slightest suggestion of turning yellow, let alone red, and a greenhouse full of minuscule peppers and aubergines, barely a fruit between them, shivering and dreaming of warmer climes. Not only that but all my courgettes have got brewer's droop. The plants are big and strong and look as though they're going to be impressive performers, but just when the fruits reach about three inches long and everything seems to be going well suddenly go all limp and squashy and then fade away to nothing.* And it's not just the vegetables either: my nasturtiums have been reduced to the finest Shetland lace by caterpillars, although my hops are finally flowering, they are looking distinctly sad and autumnal, and unsurprisingly given the complete and total absence of sun, I have the most pathetically tiny sunflowers ever - about the size of a ten pence piece.

However, there are plants that don't seem to object to the weather: the docks on the allotment for one are going from strength to strength springing up as fast as we can cut them down, as unfortunately is the creeping buttercup. Taking advantage of a brief interlude in the deluge this weekend C. and I set about trying to stem the tide a little bit, digging up something in the region of 180 dock plants in the course of the two days, with roots varying in length between a couple of inches and a couple of feet.** When everyone else is busy taking in the harvest it was a little demoralising to be leaving with nothing but a bucket of rubbish and a bad back, but we also installed two more raised beds and a couple of enormous compost bins, so we're a little closer to having something recognisably allotment.

I did bring back a couple of rather splendid gladioli, a legacy of whoever had the plot before us, which helped to brighten the place up a bit even if they're not actually edible, and we have finally this week tasted the first fruits (or at least salad vegetables) of our labours in the form of two very hearty little lettuces, which the wet weather hasn't done any harm at all (though it's a fair measure of just how wet it has been that I've only had to water the things once since I planted them in July).

At the risk of coming over all Uncle Monty, I do have a soft spot for vegetables as things of beauty in themselves, and there's something very gratifying about such shiny green lusciousness. (They did also taste quite nice). But for the time being, in the absence of other produce I've been having to content myself with admiring illustrations in books and seed catalogues and dreaming of next year (when the weather will hopefully confound expectations and be perfect). If it's not, however, perhaps I can take a leaf out of Felix's book, or indeed this book half-inched from my mum's bookshelf at home, and knit myself a harvest. It's probably easier on the back and definitely less likely to result in nettle-rash.

* And they can't even claim this has never happened to them before either: it happened last year as well, though to be fair the weather was equally rubbish then.
** One of the larger variety did for my garden fork. Well, C. did for my garden fork by putting all his weight on it in an attempt to lever the thing out of the ground, and it was only a "ladies'" fork, but the result is the same. Splinters all round.


katieh said...


(our hops are also coning up like crazy.)

The allotment is looking great. (though i agree - taking on a plot in the summer is pretty miserable work, but it does give you a headstart on next spring. also, there is probably still time to get in some radishes, or lettuces, or rocket before it gets too cold, and you could sow winter onions, and garlic before the spring, which would set you up nicely.)

Felix said...

The knitting of the vegetables is a soothing antidote to the miseries of all this wetness and I can assure you, much better suited to the rain than toiling out in the mud.

Lara said...

I love the knitting vegetables, I have been thinking of having a "hurrah for autumn" come harvest supper type party so maybe instead I should have a come and knit a harvest party?!
Well done on the allotment front - its back breaking work, spent years being made to toil by parents clearing allotments.