August – October 2018 garden diary

I listened to an interesting Radio 4 interview recently in which a director of a food services company explained how a ‘perfect storm’ (no pun intended) of bad weather had created massive problems for his organisation this year. It all started with the Beast from the East

“Food services” companies supply food products to places such as restaurants, hotels, gastro pubs, hospitals and entertainment venues. They rely on farmers to produce the good quality vegetables they need, in sufficent quantities. The Beast was a very cold weather event which lasted from about 19th February to 24th March – just about the time when many growers would have been sowing their seeds to produce root crops. It was closely followed by Storm Emma. Snow blanketed many parts of Britain on multiple occasions – people across the country began to clear roads and pathways, only to find yet another snowstorm undid all their good work.

With our own gardening activity focussed on getting our new (inherited) Ramsey garden shipshape, we had no time for sowing anyway, so our plans were not really affected. I love growing veg. – like these beetroot from 2013. 2018 was the first time for more than forty years that I’ve grown no vegetables at all, but I certainly chose the right year to take a break!

As the food services man reminded listeners, the Beast was quickly followed by a very long period of exceptionally hot weather, commencing in April, 2018 seeing the hottest April day (19th) since 1949. The very hot weather lasted for months, well into August, roasting the land and creating difficult conditions for farmers and gardeners alike. In the end, 2018 was the hottest summer on record for England, average temperatures narrowly beating those seen in the memorable summer of 1976. But in fact the Met Office reported that 2018 was only the joint hottest summer on record for the whole of the UK. The heatwave subsided on August 10th.

If we imagined that we’d had our fill of extreme weather, we were quickly proved wrong, a series of severe storms (remember Storm Ali on 19th September, Storm Bronagh on 20th-21st September and Storm Callum on 12th -13th October?) battering the country with high winds and lashing rain.

We observed the corn crop over the bramble hedge at the end of the Ramsey garden. Despite everything, the farmer managed to produce what seemed to be a fine crop. How do they do it?


There were a number of casualties in both gardens – notably some lovely Penstemons – but one plant’s fragility can sometimes be another’s opportunity, and our Euphorbia, for instance, reveled in the heat, invading newly-created bare patches of soil. And the Medlar has never produced so many large fruit, though I have decided not to repeat my less-than-successful previous attempt at medlar jam.

Here’s one of the replacement Penstemons we put in.

This Sedum added a very colourful note …

… and Valerian (regarded by many people as wild flowers) thrived in our front garden in Ramsey. Their flowers are not particularly beautiful, but this year it was horses for courses and they did a ‘valiant’ job in cheering up some of the dry and dusty beds.

The hot period lasted so long and was so intense that it was impossible to make running repairs. We began replanting in early September, adding replacement plants and also compost to try to bring the soil back to a reasonable condition.

Our lawns didn’t fare too badly, but only because I took action early and frequently. I’ve found over many years that even a modest spraying in late evening, provided it’s done every night over a dry spell, can keep grass in quite good condition.

The same applied to the Roses, which will always respond well to sunshine and plenty to drink …

Keeping an eye on herbs in pots is essential in really hot weather. Unfortunately a number of ours succumbed to the blazing sunshine and were killed. But the Rosemary, rooted in open soil, thrived and bushed out spectacularly, producing delicate blooms which lasted for many weeks.

Just recently, we’ve treated the grass with an Autumn conditioner, the main purpose of which is to feed the roots and attack moss, which may well continue to infest the lawn over the winter, but at least the grass will be in better condition when we come to make our first cut next Spring and apply a Spring feed and weed.

In the Ramsey garden, we’ve also added a new border …

into which we’ve introduced a Wallflower

… a Heuchera

… and a Penstemon

… along with multitudes of Spring bulbs.

Now we’ll just have to wait to see what Winter brings. As far as extreme conditions are concerned, it has a hard act to beat, given what we’ve experienced thus far this year!

 

 

Image credit: Beast from the East – NASA (public domain)

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