Saturday, 28 January 2012

Gardening When the Climate's Gone Nuts -or - Get Your Husband to Build a Greenhouse

I will admit it has been a frustrating season for me. No matter how carefully you plan as a gardener, nothing can prepare you when external factors are all wrong. I like to think of this season a bit like Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were- Rabbit. No matter how much you lovingly try to protect your garden, there are some things beyond your control. This includes an enormous were- rabbit tearing through your garden and scoffing your carrots, or in my case - waiting for a Summer that has never arrived.  Since the number of sunny days we have had this summer can be counted with one hand, I'm sure for those of you in the mountains at least will have had a multitude of things go wrong. The trees are so out of it that some of the Japanese maples have already turned orange and red! 

My tomatoes have not grown well at all. Basically, despite well drained soil and plants in raised garden beds, they are waterlogged, and a bit too cold.  The tomatillos on the other hand, have popped up in a warmer corner of the veg patch as volunteers, loving the moist conditions. My first sowing of beans also did not like the cooler summer; but on the other hand I had a multitude of peas, which like cool weather, and a bumper crop of broad beans. The zucchinis have been slow, but are now taking off - I'm keeping my fingers crossed they will not suffer from mildew and if there is a dry day I will be going out to spray with a baking soda solution just in case.

My biggest loss has been the onions I so carefully sowed and tended through winter and spring. The massive amounts of rain has caused them to put all their effort into tops and the bulbs failed to swell. The garlic, which was planted and grown much earlier, was excellent, but then I pulled them up before the rains came. All of these things are through no fault of my own, but if I had known, then I wouldn't have bothered with summer plants at all, and just grown those that like Spring sort of weather. If I had a greenhouse, the poor tomatoes would have had more favourable conditions.

On the plus side, I haven't had to water any of the fruit trees for about 10 weeks. The peaches in particular are going brilliantly, and it looks as though this year may be the year of the olive - there are masses of tiny fruitlets beginning to swell. The raspberries produced masses, and I think there will be a few buckets of blackberries for jam. Even the strawberries were good after I netted them from the pesky birds (we have four cats, and do you think a single one of them lifted a paw to help us on that one? No! So much for cats killing local wildlife!)

And also, lest you think I am ungrateful for the rain, we have not had a fear of bush fires. Normally, this time of year is hot and dry, and in the mountains, the smell of smoke puts us all on edge. So at least our firies have had a less busy season.

So, since the long range forecast is for rain, rain, and more rain for the rest of summer, I've got ahead of the late summer and autumn planting and put in those that will welcome moist conditions. Spring onions, coriander, red Russian kale, thousand leaf kale, perpetual spinach, yellow stem silverbeet, romanesco broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, turnips, and kohl rabi. I've also ordered some garlic bulbs and broad beans for March planting. Sowings of quick growing lettuce and rocket have also been done to get a last crop before Autumn. My suggestion is to get going on cool veg now, so that you will have something for winter. 

In any case, I suppose what I'm trying to say is, hindsight is a wonderful thing. And if I had a greenhouse I'm sure I would have got a few more tomatoes. Obviously, the Beloved had better get ready to build a greenhouse. Happy gardening!

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