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Watering expectations

September 9, 2019

Oh, my goodness. I wake up this morning to an unfamiliar sound: rain pounding down on the roof. How long has it been? I honestly don’t remember. (Does this mean Frank can’t clean the chimney today? He hasn’t called, so I guess he’s still coming. Rather him than me on the roof today.)

Seems like a good day to write about rain and water and how useful these are for gardens.

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve added anything to the garden blog. Mainly that’s because there hasn’t been much to add. Bloody hell. Just checked and there hasn’t been a post since June. Makes sense, as my strawberry haul was the last thing worth mentioning. No sign of a second crop, which I know could and should happen. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Back in the spring I was a good little gardener. I gave the roses rose food. I dug more compost and manure into the raised beds than I usually do. I got ready. This (as I tell myself every year) is going to be a good year.

Put simply, this has not been a good year.

Yes, there were lots of strawberries back in June. Lovely. However, there hasn’t been a second round of strawberries, which I know there could and shoud be. I didn’t get a single raspberry or blueberry, despite having numerous raspberry canes and six blueberry bushes. (Three out of four of the dwarf blueberry bushes do not look likely to live another year.) There were four black currants on one of the two blackcurrant plants. There was one gooseberry on the gooseberry plant. Not exactly what I was hoping for back in the spring.

The apple tree, which produced dozens of apples last year (even if the raccoons got most of them), did not produce a single blossom this year.

On the vegetable front, I planted two courgettes – one green, one yellow – in one of the raised beds. If you’ve been following this sad sack horticultural adventure for a while, you’ll know that the first couple of years I grew courgettes I had bumper crops. (And thus lots and lots of courgette and gorgonzola soup. Yum.) Both plants have  produced multiple flowers, as did the two courgettes I planted in 2018. Last year I got a grand total of one yellow courgette and one green. This year the grand total was one green courgette. Sigh.

After months in the raised bed, my beets are the size of peanuts and my carrots are the size of pencil stubs.

On the plus side, I did get a fair few peas (with a second planting coming along nicely) and the pole beans continue to produce well. So it’s not all bad news. Also, the six cherry tomato plants (yes, yes, I know – technically tomatoes are fruit) given to me by my friend Jan produced very well. I can only suppose she sprinkled some garden fairy dust on the plants before I collected them, ’cos this was the first summer in a while I’ve had a decent crop of cherry tomatoes.

Floral notes: I have nearly a dozen rose bushes. In a good year throughout the summer there is always a fresh rose in the bud vase beside my bed and others in my mum’s silver rose bowl on the diningroom table. This was not a good year.  I got no more than one rose from most of the bushes and not a single one from my favourite yellow rose bush.

What the fuck?

This is what I’ve been asking myself for most of the summer. The answer finally came to me a couple of weeks ago: I’m paranoid. No, no, I don’t think there is some great cosmic conspiracy to crush my hopes for my little garden. I’m paranoid about the well running dry. It only happened once after a hot, sunny, dry period that lasted from the beginning of May until the end of September. And even then it didn’t run dry until the middle of September. We had some rain in July this year. I shouldn’t be so paranoid, but old habits die hard.

I am not giving my roses and fruit and vegetables enough water to help them thrive. I am watering them just enough to keep them (barely) alive.

What to do? (The obvious answer is to water more, but, you know, paranoia.) Do I give up on the raised bed and fill it with garden gnomes and pink flamingos? Tempting. (No, not really.)

Despite the fact that I have this raised bed, do I just start growing everything in pots, which are easier to keep well watered? Maybe.

I think perhaps the answer for the raised vegetable bed is to simply focus on peas and beans which don’t need to root deeply. I don’t know why I used to have good results with beets. I’ve had no luck with them – or carrots – for years. Time to give up on them.

Berry bushes? Other than the raspberries (several of which I must admit to myself are now actually dead) and the blackberry bush, I’ve never pruned any of them. Time to start? (Well past bloody time, no doubt.)

Short pause whilst I do some Googling and discover the following information.

  • Raspberry canes that look dead may not be. Well, that’s good news, ’cos they sure look dead.
  • Blueberry bushes should be pruned in March. (How will I ever remember to do that?) According to the article: It’s easier to keep a bush consistently productive by cutting back every year. Some blueberries have a tendency to overfruit” (Oh, ha bloody ha. Chance would be a fine thing) “which can lead to biennial bearing, where you only get a crop every other year.” (Every other year would be an improvement.) “Pruning out older canes will take away some of the fruit-bearing branches, helping keep the balance between fruit production and new growth.” Well, that’s all very interesting, but what the hell is a blueberry “cane”. They’re bushes. Is a cane a branch? If so, say so. If not, what?
  • Black currants and gooseberries should be pruned from late winter to early spring. Oh, that’s also March, so if I actually remember to do one, I’ll probably remember to do the others at the same time. Let’s hope for a nice day in March. (And me remembering six months from now.)

Okay, pruning good. Perhaps pruning the gooseberry and black currants and blueberries will encourage more fruit. Nice little job for me next March. (If I remember.) But what about water? Can I overcome my paranoia, take a leap of faith and actually give any of them enough water?

We’ll just have to see.


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