The flavours of summer
“Is there any more wonderful sight, any moment when man’s reason is nearer to some sort of converse with the nature of things, than the sowing of seeds, the planting of cuttings, the transplanting of shrubs, the grafting of slips?”
So wrote Augustine of Hippo some 16 centuries ago. I might add: “And best of all, harvesting the produce of the garden that man (or woman!) has lovingly tended.”
Over the past seven months I have managed the vegetable garden rather more productively than previously, with successive sowings of salad leaves, rocket, beetroot and herbs. So we have managed to keep ourselves supplied continually, if modestly, since the beginning of the year.
This feels like a triumph, albeit a minor one. But when the challenges come thick and fast – as they have done on occasion in the Jasmine Garden – any progress can feel like a milestone reached.
First off, we spent much of this month working with an engineer on the irrigation system (see below left). It hadn’t been working properly for a year or two. The lawn was bare in patches and burnt dry in others, raised bed 4 was subject to mini-floods, raised bed 1 and the herb garden had very little water at all. That suited the thyme and the marjoram, but emphatically not the lettuces.
We almost got it right, but three bursts in two beds* made it clear that we still needed to secure the pipe connections with metal collars – and to watch them like hawks until the system had settled down. Up to now, the timer for the raised beds isn’t working, which means we have to switch the system on manually for that section of the garden only – how odd!
It’s interesting to note the progress of the raised beds since we launched the rescue plan early in the year:
Bed 1: treated with compost and horse manure produced a magnificent crop of chard that outlasted the spinach by miles; good salad leaves, flat leaf parsley and coriander and a forest of dill (self-seeded).
Bed 2: treated with compost and a little manure did less well for salad leaves (but was patchily watered). I’m still watching the shallots, coming along slowly, as is the curly leaf parsley; the sage bush has recently decided to put on a growing spurt. We may get there yet.
Bed 3: partially overhauled by digging out some soil, extracting the worst lumps and adding dry branches and leaves before filling up with soil and sand mix, plus compost and a little manure. Tomato plants are growing like topsy – but I have forgotten what I planted (!!) They appear to be cherry tomatoes. Those on the upstairs balcony, which were not transplanted, are ahead as they are already turning red (below right). Also doing well: capsicums bought as seedlings from the local market; mange-tout; flat leaf parsley; second sowings of salad leaves, rocket and beetroot.
Bed 4: Again, the tomatoes have taken off. French beans and capsicums are doing well (see below main picture, with ladybirds). A sowing of sweet basil germinated well and is growing happily, while the onions are in danger of going to seed… I need to do something about them.
Meanwhile, the herb bed is full of flowers as the two thyme plants are in full bloom and the chives have produced lovely heads of pale lilac blooms. I love them – and so do the bees!
Of course, it’s not just the admiring and the harvesting that count: the proof of the produce is in the eating, and we have had vegetarian meals full of the most wonderful flavours in the past few weeks – take the beetroot risotto and the wealth of leaves and herbs that form the basis of every salad we eat. Irresistible!
- Correction 30th April: 4 bursts in 3 beds. Nothing worse than leaking pipes in irrigation systems!