Saturday, 21 June 2008

All Downhill From Now

Although June doesn't end for another week or so, the Summer Solstice marks the real mid point of the year. It's hard to couple the idea of the start of Summer with the shortening of daylight, but at least we have three months or more of warm (ish) and hopefully sunny days to look forward to.

Must confess - I didn't really see in the solstice. I woke around half past four, (a) felt sickly and (b) noticed it was raining. So I acknowledged the solstice from the comfort of my bed and went back to sleep.

This week has seen the first meaningful harvests of the year. We've been cutting salad leaves from the troughs in the back garden, and I started picking herbs within days of the bed being finished. But this past week has seen us lift the first new potatoes, pick and shell peas, and best of all, pick the first raspberries of the year! Most of these were yellow Fall Gold raspberries, which you may gather from the name are really an Autumn fruiting variety. But I didn't cut them back when they should have been as they were on the old allotment and I wanted to be able to find them when I was able to lift them. So they were lifted, old shoots and new, plonked in a container in the back garden and left to get on with things until the space at the new allotment was ready. As a consequence, during the week we each had a small bowl of chocolate ice cream, garnished with a handful of golden raspberries. The summer raspberries, Glen Ample, are now starting to ripen (according to the books, about a month early), but at the moment just one or two at a time, so more of a treat than a meal as yet.

I've noticed my wild and alpine strawberries are starting to ripen. Hopefully there will be some sunny mornings soon to make the most of that treat.

I've spent a few idle afternoons this week watching coverage of Royal Ascot. I'm not as convinced as some observers that it was a vintage renewal of all the races, but it was great to see Yeats win the Gold Cup for the third time. Whilst he could never take the place in our hearts that Persian Punch holds, it was an admirable feat, and great to feel part of history just by watching it. It's a shame to think that, by the mere fact that he has won races at a distance further than a mile and a quarter, it is highly unlikely that any of Yeats' sons will have the opportunity to pass on his genes to a third generation. Maybe if he (and Scorpion, another wonderful horse who had been categorised as a National Hunt stallion because he won the Leger) was thought of as a Sports Horse sire, a few of his sons would be retained for stud duties. My rant about the narrowing of the UK and Irish thoroughbred gene pool and making stamina a dirty word can continue another time.

This weekend, if it stops raining, the Wartime Weekend Gardener suggests that crops are given a generous mulch. This may come as a surprise to those who think mulching is a new fangled obsession. It is in fact just another long established method that was thrown out of the window in the chemical and science obsessed post war years.

It is also suggested that a final batch of broad beans are sown. I like broad beans, but for me they're a crop of early Summer, with some saved for the freezer. I'd leave that and concentrate on sowing French and Runner beans for late Summer cropping.

Finally, plant out celery. The ideal place to plant celery is in deeply cultivated soil which has had manure earlier in the year. Therefore, they are the perfect crop to follow on in soil where new potatoes have just been lifted.

There's logic to this vegetable gardening lark.

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