Although this morning’s haul from the vegetable garden looks pretty abundant, overall it’s been a poor year for produce from my potager by comparison with previous summers. It started off well, but this extended heatwave and drought has sent the plants into survival mode, which means they have almost closed down. It hasn’t rained significantly since April so I am desperate for it to rain steadily overnight for about a fortnight. When the first rains come this autumn, they will simply run off as the ground is concrete-dry. Normally by now we have had a couple of big thunderstorms and much cooler temperatures. However it looks set to be 37 degrees C today – and the hottest day of the year, despite it being 4 September.
The raised beds have been on a drip system all summer, set for 30 minutes daily at 9pm so the plants can make the most of the water before the heat of the day. We ran out of water in the rainwater harvesting tanks back in mid-August. However, strangely, we’re having morning dews and, as we have a metal roof which does not absorb water, we’re gaining about 200 litres each dawn. If you saw how crackle dry it is everywhere you would not think water-harvesting would be possible.
Our young trees are looking a bit desperate, but I have been giving some occasional soakings to most of the apple trees. However those that have not been watered have fruit the size of large marbles so of no use at all. The ten citrus have all been watered regularly and are doing well. As for the flower beds, most of the plants have survived very well and I put that down entirely to the addition of bark mulch last Spring. An entire pallet of bark set us back hundreds of euros, but the cost of replacing lost shrubs would have been far greater. I’m sure they’ll all perk up when the rains come.
We’ve had excellent aubergines, rhubarb and pumpkins, along with abundant basil, coriander and parsley – all of which have coped well with the heat. However the tomatoes haven’t been great even though I put in about 18 plants of all sorts of varieties. Courgettes started well, then seemed to give up the ghost completely. Similarly the peppers were excellent until the end of July, then closed down. Maybe the bees went into hiding from the heat. However, I saw lots of bees on open courgette flowers this morning so maybe we’ll have a huge end of season spurt. I hope so.