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Summer scorcher

Nowadays, in the height of the summer, the Jasmine Garden offers respite from the heat only early or late in the day, when the shady spots and cooling breezes work their magic. Otherwise, it’s out of bounds between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. – and that’s tough for a gardener.

Every day, the bees gather noisily around the water pots left out for them on a corner of the lawn. I am leaving the basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) unrestrained as it is one of very few plants to flower throughout the summer, providing our friends from the hives on the roof with sustenance in an otherwise bleak time.

The raised beds are sun-bleached, the tomato vines scorched and crumpled, the beetroots visibly wilting, but a few sturdy occupants carry on regardless, producing a good crop – the green peppers, for example. Today’s tally is 350g, rather more than I know what to do with. Oddly, although they come in many shapes and sizes including some that both look and smell as if they might be hot, they are all mild… These were supplied by our erstwhile Engineer (he who dared to bring Monsanto seeds into the garden!) so I can’t ask for any info as to what they are, but they were sourced from a Ministry of Agriculture supplier so I am surprised to find the batch so varied.

I have also gathered in another 700g of onions, making a total of 2.2kg so far, with more to come. Sadly the garlic never got planted… Unfailingly, when I mention it to the gardener (whoever he may be) every year, I always hear that it’s the “wrong time” and we should have planted it last week/month or a fortnight ago…

But a July sowing of rocket has germinated and, though stunted, the plants are producing fiery leaves that add piquancy to any salad. Neither the flat-leaf parsley nor the coriander appeared.

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Meanwhile, the fruit trees are doing better, with the fragile lime tree acquired at the 2015 Spring Flower Show in El-Urman Gardens at last taking off. The dates are approaching harvest time and we are keeping a close eye on them. To my husband’s enquiry as to how we should judge the right time to gather them a gardener in a local park answered mysteriously: “You will know!” This left him none the wiser, but we conclude that trial and error, and watching what the neighbours do with theirs, will have to be our guide!

Our guava crop is disappointing, so far. Affected by what looks like a burrowing pest, the fruit have developed patches of slightly mushy, brown flesh while remaining dry and underripe elsewhere. There’s also a tricky balance between leaving them until they are fully ripe and losing them to the birds, as the bulbuls are very partial to them, so we have netted some and hope to have a few that ripen fully and remain bug-free. Definitely not to be compared with last year’s wonderful fruit, however.

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One great thing about the summer: the fast-growing plants produce quantities of clippings and dead-wood for the compost bins or hugelkultur beds. Laid out in the raised beds, or on their walls, or between them, the heaps are sizzling in the sun and drying beautifully. This promises a much better balance of brown:green in the bins and, with the addition of some fermenting yeast solution plus leaving the bins in the full sun, I’m working on accelerating the composting process as much as I can.

And there is some colour too, and perfume especially in the evening: hibiscus flowers are showy but unscented; petunias survive by growing next to the water outlet from an air-conditioner; the jasmines cascade down the pergola and through the hedge, or help fill the border near the front gate – I have a flower in a tiny tumbler of turquoise Venetian glass next to me now, and it smells divine.

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