Potager Garden: July 2020

The sunshine of late July beckoned us to the woodlands and with it being such a busy month in the garden too, I am a little behind on my garden diary.

I signed off in June with the sight of our onion crop harvested and drying on the raised beds. Soon after, the garlic was gathered up, dried in the open air and plaited. I wove in little handles so that they could be hung up for storage.

Within days, the weather changed and lightning storms were forecast. We eagerly anticipated the rain’s arrival, which would bring an end to the stifling humidity of water-saturated air. Little speckled showers came and went.

Then, one evening, we saw the oncoming storm and headed to the fields to watch. I have never seen such a clear divide between a summer sky and the swirling mass of darkness across the horizon.

It rained for several days and as the dry ground was replenished, we watched our resident snail venture out for a daytime drink at the stream.

The garden itself, which had been on the cusp of a new harvest, suddenly burst into life.

Our first radish crop of the year was followed a few days later, by the season’s first lettuces.

The rhubarb was moved as part of the winter garden re-design and is thriving in its new placement by the stream. As tasty as it looks, I am letting the rhubarb have a year to settle before I start cropping again next year.

After just four weeks, the onion beds were full to bursting with broccoli, courgette and pumpkins plants, all pushing up against the protective bird netting. Last year our courgettes were destroyed by snails before they even grew their first full leaves. This year I kept the seedlings on my kitchen windowsill, then surrounded them with a copper mesh and gravel when I transplanted them into the raised beds. So far, so good.

A peek under the netting revealed newly formed pumpkin buds. It is amazing to think how quickly they will grow between now and October.

Just as we reached the start August, the hollyhocks burst into flower. The little trumpets that announce the height of summer.

The flurry of work is now done. August, for me, is the month of enjoying the garden, of long summer days that merge into beautiful evenings.

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Almanac: The Old Treehouses

Just a short journey from home there are vast acres of parkland, with rocky outcrops, banks of bracken, gentle streams and, near the top of one of the many rolling hills, a cluster of trees known in my family as “the treehouses.”  These are ancient trees that are hollowed out with many years of rough winter weather and lightening strikes.   When I was little my parents would take me to climb them, and now we take our children too.

First off is a quick climb up a grassy hill – the children love to run it, it’s always a race to the top!

Then we follow a high-up path that looks down upon a reservoir and all of the surrounding countryside.  There’s usually a quick pause for a spot of rock clambering.

The fallow deer are often resting out in the open in springtime.  Later on, when they have had their young, the stags are more protective and they tend to stay further away in the shade of the wooded areas.

The treehouses stand at the top of a nearby hill; several have giant props to keep their heavy branches from falling.  I love the shadows they cast upon the ground on a sunny day.

The children all run off in different directions, picking out their first tree to conquer.  Our littlest finds one that is just the right size for him…

…and he and rabbit set up base camp.

Soon the children find a tree that is big enough for all four of them, our two eldest sons pulling their younger brothers up to join them in the higher branches.

After all of the snacks in our backpack are gone, it’s time to head back, making a circular route back down the hillside, which takes us through a gap in the drystone wall …

… then winds its way back past a little brook.  We’ll be back soon.

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Almanac: Waiting for spring – stream walking the forest

When the forest paths turn to slippy, ankle-deep mud in the winter months, we like to take our four children stream-walking.  

This is one of the forests to the north of the village we live in and we like to visit after heavy rain, when the tiny streams are full and running much more quickly.

We have to be very careful with our littlest, and whisk him onto the bank where the water gets a smidgen deeper, and threatens to flood over his wellies.

The stream leads into the middle of the forest, where a short climb takes you up towards an old quarry.  You arrive in a high clearing, and the tree-lined basin is usually waist-deep in dry leaves for most of winter.    With soft ground underneath, the children can jump in from a height.

The sunlight shines down on the frosty ground, and I remind myself that even though I’m willing on springtime, I’ll miss this sight when the weather heats up again.

Then we regroup and run down the other side of this hill together and the it’s time for an early Sunday breakfast on the go – usually gingerbread or fudge – and then we’re ready to go back home to put the kettle on and warm up.

 

Visit my Little Art Shop: www.tinypotager.shop

Commission Enquiries: tinypotager@hotmail.com