We have just been away for a long weekend and come back to find there has been a run on the bank. The squashes have finally decided to grow, throwing out long triffid-like lengths of tendril, which are whomping their way down the bank. And the squashes are starting to form too which is splendid – I just need to keep the deer off them with my army of old freezer baskets at the ready.
I planted four Golden Hubbard plants and four butternuts of the variety Sprinter which is specially bred to produce well in UK conditions. All are planted into the composted remains (in situ) of six inches deep mulch of last year’s hay. Absolutely no work there.
The cricket season has begun here. And no, I don’t mean the Ashes. I mean the six legged kind of crickets with whom we share our summer.
High summer in the valley
I first met my special crickets last year while weeding the veg beside some long grass. Out jumped what I was sure had to be a locust – green and large. Nigel didn’t believe me when I described it to him later. Then I saw another and was able to capture it and discovered that we have the ‘Great Green Bush Cricket ‘ living here, the largest UK insect. It is not very common, but occurs locally in pockets around Stroud. How lucky we are to be one of those spots. They like long grass and scrubby edges – just how I like the field.
Anyway secondchild told me today that he has started to hear the crickets. He has splendid hearing despite his love of loud gigs! I can’t hear them yet. They overwinter as eggs underground and now the nymphs have hatched out and are growing bigger. I have found their moulted skins, from ecdysis , the process of shedding their exoskeletons as they grow.
This nymph just turned up on the kitchen window!
Great Green Bush Crickets are carnivorous and they bite too, so I hope to stay out of their way.
THE GRASS IS HIGH AND DRY
The July heatwave grass is high and dry. It is studded now with pincushion flowers of waist high field scabious in a shimmer of pale blue. The butterflies bob about in groups among the grass stalks – there are so many of them here, it is wonderful.
Every time I bump into this Phacelia clump I notice the number of insects on the flowers. I think this photo is probably of Bombus terrestris the Buff-tailed bumble bee. They live underground just like the bumble bee in the Tale of ‘Mrs Tittlemouse’ who lived in a bank under a hedgerow. Stroud is a ‘Bee Town’, populated with ‘bee guardians’ – such wholesome people live here.
Phacelia is an essential flower for my summer plot, and these were overwintered plants as it is a hardy annual. The plant is Phacelia tanacetifolia which you will find offered for sale as a green manure seed, not an ornamental flower. The pretty leaves resemble tansy as the name suggests, and soft blue flowers last for ages, attracting masses of insects. I grow it mostly as a companion plant but also use it as a green manure for digging in or composting. It is very easy to grow, self seeds freely and smothers weeds, while the extensive roots improve soil structure.
I’m at it again this week. Busily mulching. The asparagus crowns I planted in April have all grown, except for three plants which failed to make it through the cold spring. The slugs have been gnawing away at some of the stems taking off the juicy outside and leaving them stripped bare. (Dam – why do they get the asparagus before us?!)
I find newspapers so useful in the garden – so long live the printed word! You can’t use the Times Online for mulching. Political correspondents and feature writers alike all get their wordsmithery sandwiched between the soil and a layer of grass clippings in my veg plot. Do the worms prefer the Guardian?
I have always dreamed of being able to do this! Just lifting up a mulch layer and picking out new potatoes from the moist earth. It’s just like collecting eggs.
These earlies (variety Maris Bard) planted in March, just before the big freeze, are producing wonderous crops. No work, no digging. Popped into 4 inch deep holes. Mulched as they grow with 6 inches deep of hay.
The availability of our hay as a mulching material, along with a light sandy soil is the magic combination here which I have never had before. Just a tiny bit of slug damage. And of course this method of picking first early potatoes allows the plants to continue growing for a bit longer and produce more tubers.
I simmer these new potatoes with a sprig of applemint for just 8 minutes. Yummy with fresh home grown dill and spring onions made up into a warm mayo potato salad = equals heaven on a plate.