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Daphne

So how is the season so far?

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I think your heatwave is getting to us tomorrow as its forecast to be 36 from 26 today.  39 Fri & Sat, which is too hot.  I know I was whinging about cherries in earlier posts, but our neighbour invited us over to pick some (he has a mature orchard) but even his trees were pretty poor in terms of quantity and quality - I ended up stoning a whole bucketful (!) for the freezer and drying, they just aren't that good raw.  Then today we harvested our other cherry, which has white fruit.  The half of the tree which is in the sun is actually pretty good, ripe and sweet (earlier than usual) but the other half is still unpleasant.  We can't eat them quick enough, so I have frozen another 3 trays, and put more out to dry.   I may bottle some in our homemade plum brandy as well.

I have already lost some tomatoes, they have curled up and died - although my soil is stony, even it is getting a pan on top, which isn't good for the feeder roots.  We have had a number of good meals from the strawbs, but they haven't been properly flavourful till now, they seem to need serious amounts of sun. The peaches are on the edge of being ready, plus we will have some apricots although they are still green and right at the top of the tree.  You mentioned perhaps going no dig, and just concentrating on the toms, I think its a good plan.  I am so conscious of water/fire/resources that unless something is a perennial or a really good doer in terms of not needing too much water/or is a very heavy yielder that I can store, I just don't plant it anymore.

Its good news about your maincrop spuds though!  I have to say my favourite thing is still the unexpected new potatoes cropping up in the compost heap.  Is this something you could try, it would be more friable than your soil? Or maybe next year try planting on top and using the heap as a hot bed for pineapple, squash or melon?

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Up to now we have been moving the compost heap every year to kill patches of bad weeds. On the second year we plant courgettes on them, which works well. But they are a lot of work to keep weed free and then harvest the compost, dig over and seed with grass. This year we are doing wild flowers on a patch but it's taken over 20 hours to prepare the bed! Next year we will have permanent compost bays to reduce our workload considerably, because most of the weed patches have gone and we've found that a covering of neat chicken poo does a good job with encouraging the natural grasses which smother the weeds anyway.

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Well. Interesting year in the veg garden / greenhouse. After the heat of last week it feels like autumn at the moment!

I had my best ever harvest of peas (Early Onward) - I usually only get enough to eat them as I pass by, but I had a few actual meals with them this year. I think because it was dry when I planted them out so they got well established without getting munched by snails. But, I’ve pulled the plants up now because they weren’t on my watering list so they’ve shrivelled and died.

The new (second early - Jazzy and Ratte) potatoes are very good. The tops have pretty much completely died now because they’re another thing I haven’t watered but I think the dry has actually helped because it’s stopped them getting blight.

The autumn planted red onions were hopeless - tiny and most bolted.

The brassicas which I’ve netted with insect mesh for the first time are looking good despite not being watered. The Cavolo Nero (Black Magic - so much better than Nero di Toscana) is doing brilliantly and looks perfect, the summer cabbages (Greyhound) look cabbage shaped but I haven’t poked them to see if they have solid hearts. The Brussels sprout (Trafalgar and Jade Cross) and Sprouting Broccoli plants are looking good. Fingers crossed the mesh continues to keep the butterflies out.

The leeks (Musselburgh) and parsnips (Gladiator) are looking OK but not great, but the seed sown brown onions (Bedfordshire Chaampion) are doing well. None of them are getting watered regularly either.

The beans are the only things in the veg garden that are getting regularly watered and fed, they’re looking great and are just starting to produce (Runners I can’t remember the variety but some red and some white flowered; dwarf French amethyst).

In the greenhouses which are getting watered every evening I’ve had a great crop of strawberries (no idea of the variety - they were here before me!), carrots (Nantes 5 - can’t seem to grow them outdoors) and cos lettuce. The mini munch cucumbers are going great guns but the full sized cucumber is doing nothing 🤷‍♀️One of the sweet pepper plants looks like it’s about to have lots of flowers while the other is just doing nothing, and that’s the story with the tomatoes too. About two thirds of the plants (Sungold, Crimson Cherry and Crimson Crush) are doing well and setting reasonable amounts of fruit, but the other plants are going pale and dying - no idea why. 
 

Still to come in the bit of the potato bd now empty, I’m trying sweetcorn for the first time - 9 plants in a grid - look healthy but only about 18 inches tall so far so maybe too late. And I’ve underplanted them with squash which are growing well and flowering but don’t seem to be developing any fruit yet.

I love the warm weather but the lack of rain is a problem now - my water butts are all empty so I’m working on a way to capture our grey water for watering.

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I think we've all had unusual years - but yours is so much more successful than mine, MT!

I am about to pull up one bed of toms, it hasn't done anything, possibly because I didn't put enough goodness back into the raised bed, its a shame as these were my big beefheart type.  The cherry toms are also pathetic in volume compared to last year, but they taste good, almost like a roast tomato!  I expect yours have succeeded because they mature earlier, perhaps before you got seriously hit by the sun.  My 3rd bed of toms is being grown only for passata/sauce - a prolific variety but not too much flavour.  Some of my branches are going brown, I can see that some of my watering is too vigorous. If I use a hose the feeder roots can get exposed - I obviously didn't plant them deep enough.   All round, not the best year for tomatoes.  I may have to rest them a year.

I have some espelette peppers grown from seed, with fruit on (I think they are chilis really, rather than peppers, very small and quite spicy) and some herbs (parsley seems remarkably heat tolerant) and that's it on the success front, although I am trying to keep the strawbs alive through this heat, as they have a great taste. I can see little flowers where I water so I hope for a second crop. Plums = everyone had very small crops, apricots = early, then fell and birds/wasps got them, peaches - tasty but small crops.  The olives are practically non existent, both at home and at the land, and the grapes are already turning so we should get some sort of crop, but I am guessing it will be small.

In a way it has been easy to abandon crops because the conditions are so bad.  I did water the mature plum trees before they cropped, and I am watering the apple on the basis it is bearing some fruit and its tasty so its worth it.  My friends and I have an elementary grey water system - they unload washing up bowls etc into buckets to water in the evening, and I have a series of watering cans/5l water containers in all rooms with taps!  I think rigging up something from the washing machine/shower is beyond us, although I do collect the water as it heats up.

I am pinning my faith on green leafy veg in autumn/winter - your tip about cavalo nero is useful, I find Nero di T to be useless as well, though it may be my conditions. I can't grow sweetcorn (too hot, too much irrigation required), so if they don't succeed for you that may be part of the reason.  You still have time for them to do their thing, they are normally ready in Sept, and squashes are deffo late.

I saw my first black (cultivated) blackberry today!

 

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We are one of the few places without serious drought restrictions, but at this stage just about all the beds are empty so water usage for them is 5 cans a day. Our water is very poor quality and officially undrinkable. Aside from the high level of Chlorine which makes my eyes water, it has a very high pesticide content. We spend more on drinking water than we use for everything else. What's annoying is what we grow can't be considered organic.

Onions were the worst year we've had. Too hot too early and half didn't develop. The potatoes (Desiree) were a good crop spoilt by scab. The bed with the least earthing up was worst affected by far, so it must be due to the soil temperature, despite the leaf mulch on the South face. Everything just stops growing when the temperature is too high, so the potatoes are late as are the carrots and beetroot.

We're going to try French beans at the end of September. It should be cooler and wetter then and they are cropped and removed in 6 weeks, so well before the frosts. They freeze well and now we have a vacuum bagger they should be even better.

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The hosepipe ban in UK effects many of my friends/family and made me realise just how difficult it would be here if we had one.  In the heat it is incredibly hard work to carry cans from the house to different parts of the garden.  We have a big mist this morning which will clear later, its cool enough for a cardi and I am taking the opportunity to give the mature citrus and other fruit trees a deep water which they get about once a month to help the fruit grow.  Even though its cool I'd be pretty exhausted by the time I'd done all of them, with a can.

Pulled up all my pathetic toms, just got one bed left.  I met someone yesterday who has a borehole and she said she was virtually self sufficient, even this summer.  Grrr.

On the plus side, I planted some ginger about 6 weeks ago and its shooting up to about 4 inches, in pots, in the shade.   I also gave a friend some already gone over mint without roots which she has rooted in water, then planted it in shade, watered it, and it already looks green and healthy and rampant.

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A news report this morning was about the use of 'ollas' (pronounced 'oyas'), which reduce water consumption by 70% and have been used by the Mayans thousands of years ago. They are porous pots with lids that are buried in the ground by your vegetables then the whole area around is covered in a mulch. You fill the pots with water and it slowly leaks into the soil under the protective mulch. The key is to get the porosity right and I can see a lot will depend on your soil, but a great idea nevertheless. I bet they are expensive.

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I remember a friend telling me about these, I'd forgotten.  Given terracotta pots are cheap as chips here, I could give it a go, nothing to lose.  Many old houses in need of tlc still have their original enormous clay pots for keeping wine, water and olive oil in, in the adega.  Sometimes these are half buried in stone/earth to keep them extra cool.  I have never quite understood how they work as you must have to ladle out the liquid contents, you can't move the jars.  By the same token you often see 5l water containers outside very old terraced houses in villages/towns so they are warmed by the sun, enough for washing up/yourself.  In the old days nobody had running water, and some still don't, you go to the communal 'fonte' to get cold water, and so to heat it you would have to light a fire.  In some out of the way villages there is a still a communal laundry, a massive shallow water tank under cover with 'washboards' now made of concrete.  As I've typed all this I realise everyone who uses them must wash laundry in cold water.

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I remember using upturned 2L plastic bottles here, with the bottom cut off, to water the courgettes when we grew them in the vegetable plot (now they are on the compost heap). So the watering can fills them and it leaks at root level rather than wetting the surface layer. We have a large number of 5L bottles here as a result of buying in water to drink and perhaps I could try them on a potato row with one between each seed and water less often. They would become buried at the earthing up stage, so the only extra work will be cutting the bottles. It will also suppress weed growth on the surface, unless it rains of course, which is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Crisis meeting today to discuss what will become the driest Summer ever in France and the worst drought. 100 communes have no tap water now and have to fetch it from water tankers parked in the village square. Crops are failing and we are lucky that most of ours are out. Kiwis are losing their leaves, which means the sun will burn the fruit (the little we have after the severe late frost in April which killed the flowers) as it did last year. Far too much watering to save them.

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I was at a friends house yesterday, she has a largish, productive kiwi, still very green leaves.  I guess its all to do with location/access to ground water.  Hers is next to a driveway - maybe this shades the roots?  OH is in the UK and reports that everywhere is brown.  I spoke to another friend yesterday (UK) and she said her garden is still green - possibly because she hasn't mown since May.  I quite like the fact that everywhere is brown here, but because locals grow for shade there is also lot of evergreen in gardens - citrus, and things like loquat with huge leaves.  The topfruit trees are suffering though.  I have planted oleanders/agapanthus as they are drought tolerant and provide colour, plus we have camellia (evergreen) and olives along with the citrus and grapes, so its not too barren looking, although we also have large agave type things which are pretty desert like.

I hope you don't suffer too badly where you are. It is grim. I still find it odd that the UK is getting on for being as badly hit as southern Europe as far as water is concerned.

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