13 November 2018

Dorset Garden Diary - 2018 Draws to a Close

Hi everyone,

Ok...so where has this year gone? It's absolutely flown by and it's been a diverse one as far as the weather is concerned. The beast from the east in March that caught the garden unawares with the frogs laying their spawn just days before it hit yet the tadpoles survived despite being frozen for days and the dahlia that all the gardening books tell me to lift every autumn survived and is still in flower.

But what did have an impact was the early heavy rain followed by the unusually hot summer and near-drought conditions. The flowers and shrubs weren't affected so much (apart from the sweet peas that failed miserably) but it definitely had an impact on the vegetables, especially the root veg. We had a good crop of early Charlotte potatoes but the Pentland Javelin and King Edwards were a disappointment despite regular watering - just these from 6 plants...

Although the carrots fared slightly better they were also a diminished crop as were the beetroot and fennel. Even the radishes and spring onions struggled.

There were no pears at all this year. The first crop of plums wizened as they ripened due to no rain but towards the end of august we had some days of heavy rain and an abundant second crop appeared and they were fat and juicy.

The peas and French beans did well as did the spinach and lettuce crops which was surprising. But it was in the greenhouse where the magic happened. The tomatoes were bountiful as always but this year the cucumbers joined in. Last year three plants only produced five cucumbers, this year we had over a dozen. The razzmatazz and padron chillies thrived in the heat and...this is the first year I have successfully grown peppers.

The lemon tree has excelled itself this year with it's flowers and has even produced a couple of lemons. They have stayed green but at least they're there!

Over the past few weeks we've had abnormally high temperatures for the time of year, we've had below average temperatures for the time of year including frost and we've had high winds and torrential rain. The fish are happy as the water level in the pond is high and they are lazily swimming around, there's got to be over thirty in there now. Him indoors has given the lawn its last cut - it's  trying to recover from the summer but is still a bit bald in places. He's cut back the tall grass growing on the edge of the pond, scooped the fallen leaves out of the pond and pruned back the fir tree in the front garden. I've cut back some of the dying plants and shrubs but I've left most of then as food and cover for the birds and small animals over winter. The other job was to put the vulnerable plant pots in the greenhouse for the winter, although with some of the warm days we've been having the temperature in there has been up into the 70'sF (21+C).

But the saddest thing to happen this year was the loss of one of the  blue tits. They were fine early in the year. They inspected their home and began nesting. It's always been a pleasure to sit in the conservatory watching them go in and out. Then we had the big freeze. It was after that that I noticed the activity around the nesting box was sporadic. One blue tit would fly up, peer in but not actually go in. This kept happening then as the spring and summer progressed, all day every day it was calling from the trees and then it would fly down and flutter around the greenhouse, seemingly hitting it's head against glass. I didn't understand why it was doing this, and it was quite distressing to watch and not being able to do anything.

Last weekend, him indoors took the nesting box down to clean it out and inside were half a dozen tiny eggs nestling in the bedding. So sad. At least they hadn't hatched. No wonder the remaining blue tit was distraught. I hope he finds another mate this year and comes back as they give us so much pleasure to watch.

The garden is looking lovely and autumnal at the moment
The squirrel is already rooting around in the veg beds and the pots so no doubt there will be walnuts everywhere again. I hope it doesn't dig up the garlic and onion bulbs we planted a couple of weeks ago.
Well that's it for this year. The garden is slowly preparing itself for winter and there are plenty of bug hotels and hideaway places for the wildlife to keep cosy. Catch up in 2019.
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