It’s getting towards the end of the summer and the colour scheme in the garden is changing. The blues, whites and purples of mid-summer are giving way to reds, oranges and yellows. Sunflowers, rudbeckias and dahlias have taken over from the knautia and phacelia, although there is still one blue flower giving its all and attracting hoards of bees and hoverflies. The globe thistles have a muted blue colour that tones well with the yellow of the fennel flowers.
This year the butterflies have made the most of the warm, dry weather and been about in numbers I haven’t seen for years. It is noticeable though that, although there are a lot of individuals, they are of just a few species. Lots of peacocks, small tortoiseshells and loads of large and small whites, but very few commas, speckled woods and so far just one painted lady. In the last couple of weeks the species count has been boosted by the red admirals that have started to appear on the buddleia – late season butterflies and a sure sign that summer is on its way out.
The summer harvests are keeping going though. I put some netting over the young kale when I planted them out and added some chard seedlings in the gaps. The netting was there to keep the butterflies at bay and give the kale a chance to grow without being eaten to shreds by their caterpillars, but as it turns out it has also worked really well at keeping the hens from eating the chard. Not long now and I should be able to harvest the first unpecked chard leaves of the year. While we wait for the chard, there are still plenty of beans and courgettes and now some purple tomatillos too. I haven’t had much success with tomatillos before, but really wanted to grow them because they make brilliant salsa. A couple of years ago I grew green tomatillos and harvested a grand total of two from three plants… not all I was hoping for. Last year the seeds didn’t germinate at all, so this time it was a fresh packet of seeds and while it’s nowhere near a glut, there are a few fruit to pick – enough for at least one bowl of salsa.
Coming along nicely now are the squashes. They struggled to get going here this year – poor germination and then the cold weather we had for most of what should have been spring, made early life difficult for them. And as if that wasn’t enough, a couple of the plants then suffered the indignity of being dug up by the hens, and replanted in the hope they wouldn’t have noticed… one plant didn’t notice, the other definitely did. We just need a few more weeks of warm sunshine to ripen them before the cold sets in, and I will have at least a few squash to show for all the effort of growing them.
The apples are just starting to ripen, damsons too, and the pears aren’t far off. There are a lot of elderberries this year too. I picked some today to make elderberry cordial and am planning to experiment with elderberry ice cream as well… good thing there are plenty of berries, because the birds love them too and it would be a shame not to share.
With next year’s planting in mind, I’ve started saving seeds from some of my favourite annuals – the dark purple opium poppy (although I’m not sure why I’m collecting seed from this one because the plants always sheds enough to ensure a forest of poppies the next summer), borage, cerinthe, calendula and coriander.
And although the end of the summer is in sight, there are still plenty of jobs to be done in the garden, apart from the constant battle with the weeds that is. I’m still sowing winter salads… rocket, winter lettuces and coriander, along with some hardy annuals for earlier cut flowers. What I am late in doing this year (ok, every year), is ordering bulbs for autumn planting. I still need to buy in garlic to plant in October, as well as lots of ornamental alliums.
This is my September entry to the Garden Share Collective – the fabulous link up of gardens from around the world, all co-ordinated by Liz at Strayed from the Table. If you’ve got a few minutes and want a good read, why not check out some of the global gardens featured in the Garden Share…