Late Summer Surprises
The larger varieties of cosmos I am growing this year have started to open. This one is called cosmos ‘white cupcakes’ because the petals are fused together so that it looks like a paper cupcake (or fairy cake) case. They’re so pretty.
I sowed the French beans relatively late this year, on 29th May. I should probably have started them sooner but it was quite a juggling act to get everything started and then keep seedlings thriving, so I delayed sowing my beans. Then they got attacked by black fly which set them back a bit. The soil probably isn’t rich enough this first year, it’s been cooler, wetter and more overcast than is normal for a British summer, and so here we are on 16th August and the beans are just starting to form. The upside is that, all being well, we should have beans through until late September, maybe even October if we’re lucky.
My Japanese anemone has just started to flower. It’s a little plug plant that I put in a month or so ago, and it should fill out and spread year to year. I know that Japanese anemones can be invasive, but I plan to keep this one in check and I can always divide it if it gets too big for the space. They’re an open centred flower loved by pollinating insects, and this one is a late season bloomer, offering nectar to insects throughout autumn.
This petite cosmos is a variety called ‘antiquity’. It’s compact, the plants don’t exceed 60cm in height, and the flowers change colour as they age. It’s really pretty, I’ll grow it again next year from saved seed.
The tomatoes have finally started to ripen! They’ve been slow. As it’s my first year of gardening I’ve no personal frame of reference, but Dad usually has tomatoes earlier in the season and his have started to ripen only a few days before mine even though he’s further south in Somerset.
You can sow sweet peas late and still get flowers! These were sown direct in the first week of May into a patch of ground that receives about 4 or 5 hours of direct sun in midsummer as it’s sheltered beneath a giant oak tree which blocks light from the east and a little from the south. Still, they’re flowering. If you miss the suggested planting window for sweet peas and want to start them off in May, I say go for it, they might surprise you. Again, this late sowing should mean that we have sweet peas in bloom until the first frosts whereas earlier sowings might have faded by then.
I sowed carrots and beetroot, both rainbow varieties, direct into the soil in March and April. The beetroot did better than the carrots, but neither did particularly well. Thin soil, shade, too dry during May and June and then too wet in July and August. There are lots of variables. Next year I plan to heavily mulch the bed with lots of homemade compost, and we’ll also be one year out from the big dig that we did to clear our plot of rubble. Hopefully we’ll have some sunnier conditions next year and a warmer spring, and the carrots and beetroot might do better for it. We’ll see. Still, here’s evidence that we had some carrots!
This is the biggest surprise of the season. These are my outdoor ridge cucumbers. They were healthy when I transplanted them after harvesting our potatoes, but then did nothing for about 5 or 6 weeks. I had given up on them and only left them in to keep roots in the soil, but then they woke up, bloomed, and now we have the first baby cucumbers forming. It might have been the comfrey fertiliser Ed gave them a week or so ago, I think soil is the most important factor and ours is at its weakest and unhealthiest this first year. Hopefully next year they’ll grow faster and earlier and crop sooner.