August digging

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Last year’s hot drought caused challenges for all sorts of flowers, vegetable and fruit. Harvests were therefore small in both size and number of vegetables, and some classes in the Rye Flower and Vegetable Show had very few entrants. In contrast, this year the rains continued through August with quite chilly nights, and the 2023 show was a wealth of colour and amazing displays in every category. Well done and thank you to Lorna Hall and Helena Hudd for a fantastic show.

This weather means flowers have clung on for longer this year because of the weather – bees are still buzzing around some of our lavenders, dahlia, echinacea and salvia. Sedum are just coming into full flower glory. We just picked our last sweet peas – much later than last year. Stand out plants right now in our garden include a tall, wispy salvia called “bog salvia”.  Not a very romantic name, and a bit of a thug in the border, but its light, tall, sky blue flower stalks reach upwards and are alive with insects at this time of year.

Also elusive until now, tithonia, or Mexican sunflower, has been sulking at the back of our border until suddenly, in the last few weeks, its orange flowers light up the darkest corners. Taking the time each week to deadhead flowers will keep them flowering well into autumn months. It’s now trim-time for Mediterranean plants- lavenders, rosemary, sage and helichrysum or “curry plant”. As we trim back, we are also making cuttings for next year’s plants and to make sure precious varieties will make it through the winter.

It’s a lovely time of year to visit friends whose plants you have coveted. Bring a little plastic bag (please ask permission!) and take home choice semi-wood cuttings of favourite plants. I have collected our poppy seeds now and I am including little packets of plum poppy seeds in cards to friends for them to throw freely into their flower borders.

In the allotment, we have had the slightly stressful week of preparation for the Rye Flower and Vegetable Show. Neighbourly competition includes comments about the size of our leeks, length of our beans and especially how well our dahlias look. A sudden heavy rainstorm the night before the show destroyed delicate sweet pea and cosmos flowers; creating even more last minute stress with dashes into allotment plots to find replacements. The picture for this month’s article is one of the amazing photographs submitted as part of the festival’s photography competition. A very special mention, given it was taken by the youngest competitor – so well done Xavier!

Our own onions were grown from seed and we have been so impressed with how well they have done. We used two kinds: Rossa Longa Di (red and oblong in shape), and Santero (a round white variety). They both grew well, their leaves stayed green until August and we will buy their seed again for next year. In a complete reversal of fortune to last year, we have found French beans suffered from the June drought and never recovered, whereas the relatively cooler weeks of July and August resulted in good runner beans this year. As we approach September, harvests of plum, pear and apple are looking fantastic. If we get more sun, grape harvest may also prove plentiful.

Image Credits: Xavier Boynton , Abigail Cooper-Hansen .

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