So the first day of August was calm, dry and hot – just the kind of weather that butterflies like. I called round at the local garage to book my car in for some work next week, and as I walked back I passed a group of buddleia bushes alive with butterflies. A sight worth stopping and watching, so many peacocks, small tortoiseshells, and large and small whites fluttering about and slurping up the nectar… great to see after a couple of poor years for these insects.
But I must admit to feeling a bit put out while I was stood there, because when I’d done the Big Butterfly Count the day before there were nowhere near as many insects on my buddleia. Back home I took a walk down the garden, just to see how the buddleia was doing, and it really must have been down to the weather, because my plant too was thick with butterflies.
While I was out, I figured it was as good a time as any to check in on the rest of the garden and see how it was doing, ready for a blog post to link to August’s Garden Share Collective. It’s the first time I’ve joined in with this blogging collaboration, which is run by Lizzie who writes a very fine blog called Strayed from the Table.
First stop was the wildflowers. Back in April I was sent a packet of seeds as part of a scheme to encourage more gardeners to grow wildflowers. Native plants tend to be neglected by many gardeners in favour of the big, brightly coloured flowers of hybrids and introduced species. But I like the delicate beauty of our native flowers and will be looking to grow more next year by collecting seed from the plants that are now flowering… a beautiful patch of cornflowers and poppies have sprung up to brighten up a corner of the border that was starting to become overgrown and neglected. I definitely prefer this to overgrown and neglected –
The fruit trees are still promising a good harvest in a few weeks time. The June drop was a little late this year, but apples have been falling from the trees over the last two or three weeks, littering the grass with the small fruit. A bit of natural thinning was needed – there was a lot of fruit on the trees, and what’s left is now fattening up nicely. The pears are looking good too, much better than last year’s crop of two – one of which was blown from the tree in a late summer storm and spoiled. I have plans for making pear and ginger jam in the autumn, so I hope the fruit stays on the tree until it’s ready to pick.
The first French beans are ready to harvest now, just about overlapping with the last of the peas. Once again my incredibly poor organisational skills mean that I’m not sure what variety of beans the dwarf ones are – probably ‘The Prince’… I think. But the climbers, I do know, are ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’, a heritage variety bought from The Real Seed Catalogue. I grew this variety partly because it’s billed as “Simply the best bean there is” and you can’t really argue with that, but also because of its history. It is said to be one of the plants that the Cherokees carried with them when they were forced from their homelands to make way for European settlers. A vegetable which has such a poignant past, but was treasured and grown to provide for future generations is surely worth finding garden space for.
Courgettes and squashes were a struggle to get going this year this year. Poor germination left me with a grand total of two plants, both ‘Queensland Blue’, which are now growing incredibly well in the hugelkultur bed that I dug out… can’t remember if I blogged about this bed or not, but it’s working really well. My lovely neighbour saved the day on the courgette front and gave me a couple of plants that she had going spare. These were planted next to the squash, watered in and given serious protection from the hens who were at the time either eating or scratching up everything in the garden as soon as it was planted. The protection worked and the plants grew big enough to be safe from the hens, and are now cropping regularly enough to keep us in courgettes. More than enough in fact… I managed to sneak a couple into a summery soup along with some fresh herbs and peas. The recipe is below, just in case you were looking for something to do with a courgette glut.
How’s your garden looking now that August is here?
Summer Garden Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp coriander seed
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
500g courgettes, washed and chopped into chunks
300g peas, fresh or frozen
500ml vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp finely chopped coriander, dill and mint
Sea salt and black pepper
Put the oil into a large pan and put over a medium heat. Add the onion, and cook gently for five minutes or so to soften but not brown it.
While the onion is cooking, dry roast the cumin and coriander seed in a small saucepan. Keep the heat quite low and keep an eye on them… you want to warm them until you can smell the spicy fragrance, then take them off the heat and grind them fairly finely.
Add the ground spices and chilli to the onion, stir and cook for a further couple of minutes. Then add the courgettes, peas and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer nice and gently until the courgettes are good and tender. When they are cooked, use a hand blender or liquidiser to puree the soup.
Add the lime juice, chopped herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Warm gently if needed.
I served this soup with some spicy harissa paste and a good sprinkling of crispy fried onions… oh, and some thick slices of homemade bread.