Saturday, 12 July 2008

St Swithin and all that....

Woke up this morning to discover yet another mosquito bite. Quickly rubbed in a drop of Tea Tree oil and hopefully that should keep it under control. Like bruises, it's the insect bites you don't realise you've got that cause the worst problems. Still, I'd rather a few mozzie bites - I can cope with that. I wake up much more comfortable after a night with a window open to allow at least some airflow.

This year doesn't seem quite as bad as last year for mosquitos. We're coming up to the anniversary of the floods of last year and so far, even taking into account some extreme weather in the past week, things seem better than last year so far. However, as with last year, the first flash floods happened in South Wales this past week. But being in Wales, and a working class area, the media gave only cursory coverage.

Even if the weather patterns of the past 18 months or so are a blip, more needs to be done to stop floods. The government have delicately tiptoed in with a small measure - as from September, anyone wanting to hard landscape their front garden will need to get planning permission and ensure that the surface they lay down so they can park their three cars in place of lawn and flowers will have to be porous enough to allow water to drain through. This is nowhere near enough. Contractors have been given far too much of a warning, and as many paving firms are not entirely above board, they're scaring people into getting shoddy work done ahead of time.

First of all, the move should have been immediate, and the planning permission should have been retrospective - say covering work done in the past 15 years. In some suburban streets, the prevalence of the car park front garden is such that it is no longer safe to be a pedestrian, for fear of being run down by some wannabe desparate housewive type, driving their 4x4 over the pavement at an angle over the pavement whilst talking on the phone.

Aside of the flooding risk by forcing all water run-off into drains and causing drought by preventing rain from reaching the water table, there's the security issue of making fronts of houses immediately accessible from the street. Very useful that, as many fly by night paving firms supplement their income with burglary. They often send someone round to other nearby houses seemingly to drum up business, but really to seem who's in and when, and if they have anything worth taking. As well as looking better than a flash car and tumbleweeds of crisp packets, a proper garden served the purpose by slowing entry - thorny hedges and rose bushes are functional as well as decorative.

Then there's the fact that hard standing affects the ambient temperature of the street colder in Winter and substantially hotter in Summer. Street trees are often deemed to be "in the way" of paved gardens, so they have to go, removing welcome shade, wildlife habitat and character in one fell swoop.

So from September, if you have the slightest inkling that yet another garden is in danger, tell your local council that you don't want to live in a desert where it's unsafe to walk the streets. Demand they review areas paved before September. And plant a tree. If you have nowhere to plant a tree, buy one for someone who has the space. Preferably a fruiting tree, and best of all, a native variety.

Rant over. For now.

Hopefully there will be enough of a break in the showers to get plenty of work done at the allotment. All our good intentions of getting to the plot during the week were lost due to heavy rain and work demands. But instead we got started on another "future-proofing" project at home. More of that another time.

Tasks set out for this week in The Wartime Weekend Gardener include:

Lift some more First Early potatoes. We're about a third of the way through ours, and have eaten most of them just boiled with butter and mint. A few left from the night before have been turned into potato salad, and some have been sliced and baked in layers of goats cheese and smoked salmon, a luxurious adaptation of the Swedish dish Janssen's Temptation (usually made with anchovies). In a month or so it will be time for Second Earlies, and the first home grown jacket potatoes and mash. Bliss.

Check over the herb bed and give it a nitrogen rich feed to encourage leafy growth. A compost tea made with nettles would be ideal for this. We've started harvesting from the herb bed at the front of the house. The nasturtiums are starting to flower and the local kids who have taken an interest were amazed when they found out that the leaves and flowers were edible.

Gently tie up Cos type lettuces to ensure they"heart" properly. Not a task that's as necessary these days. The most commonly grown variety, Little Gem, is small and compact. But if you do try this, check for slugs first.

Finally, sow some swede to crop this coming Winter. Great, as we still wait for a proper Summer, another reminder that Winter is just around the corner.

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