To be honest we did have a tiny bit of rain but not enough to even cover the bottom of a water butt. The end result is that plants are dying due to the excessive heat and lack of the deep watering that can only come from a good deluge. It’s not that I haven’t been watering, I have a huge rota of watering duties that sometimes see me wandering the garden in the moonlight dragging a hose behind me like the Ancient Mariner with his Albatross. Just like him I have become a water bore and “I stoppeth one of three” to discuss the lack of water. The end result is that we have a huge water bill of over €600 for a month, it is normally high at €200, but this is an emergency and needs must. I hid the bill from Cruella (my wife) but due to her powers she found it and currently is threatening to turn me into a Toad.
Anyway enough of this frivolity let’s get on with the serious stuff of gardening.
21st August: Things I have been doing lately
🌼 Gathering seeds from Marigolds. If you have grown Marigolds this summer, now is the time to gather their seeds. Marigolds are perfect for our climate here in Spain, they love sun, flower freely and at the end give you lots of seeds for next year. Because of the extreme heat and the drought, the Marigolds died very quickly after flowering. In most cases this happened before the seed heads were fully ripe meaning that there were fewer mature seed heads this year. The normal process for gathering Marigold seeds is as follows:
– mark the best blooms with tape to that you can identify them later at the seed gathering stage.
– wait until the seed heads go fully black with no hint of green or orange.
– remove the seed heads and roll them between your forefinger and thumb, letting the ripe seeds fall into your other hand.
– remove all the chaff and rubbish by passing the seeds from hand to hand and letting the wind blow all the rubbishy stuff away.
– place the seeds into a plain envelope, mark the year and the type of seeds on the envelope, and you are all set for next Spring.
The first photo below shows this year’s seedheads. From this you can see that although the plant had died many of the seedheads were still not mature. I have circled the only ones that were suitable. The next photo shows the process of removing the seeds from the seed head. The final photo shows next year’s crop of seeds ready to be put to bed.
🌴 Cutting back Palms. The photo below shows a circle of Palms that I have grown in the centre of a pathway. The first photo shows the Palms overgrowing on to a path, which makes them dangerously spikey for children or dogs. The second photo shows my Herculean efforts at cutting them back. If you look carefully in the second photo you will see Cruella sweeping the Naya with one of her old brooms. Once they are no longer useful for flying she recycles them, she thinks it makes her modern and caring, she even has a t-shirt with eco-witch on the front.
🕳 Filling a gap in a hedge. When a plant dies in a hedge it can leave a gap that looks worse than someone with missing front teeth. The problem you then face is that it is difficult to fill the gap especially in a line of mature hedges where it will take years for a new plant to mature and close the gap. Now you can plant the same type of plant and wait the necessary years for nature to work its magic, or you can plant something new and fast growing to plug the gap.
In the first photo below you will see the gap that has occurred in my hedge because of the death of a mature Hibiscus. Now just a word of warning before I continue with this riveting narrative. Hibiscus have a habit of going into a coma sometimes for up to two years. They look dead and lose all their leaves etc, but a quick scrape of their bark will show the green underneath. They in effect are suffering from the plant equivalent of “locked in syndrome”. I know this has now turned into an Edgar Alan Poe blog, but it’s true.
Anyway, my Hibiscus was dead and I had the certificate to prove it; cause of death was old age (natural causes). So it was time to fill the gap. An easy way to fill the gap is to take a cutting from a fast growing climber, and use the framework of the dead plant as scaffolding for your new climber. In my case I have grown Pink Trumpet Vine especially for this purpose. The second photo below shows the new plant settling into its new home and ready to scramble up the frame of the dead Hibiscus.
💔 Gardening failures. All gardening lives are riddled with failures, and the results of this blistering Summer have meant that I have many examples. The two photos below show a lovely little trailing Lantana that I took as a cutting from some of my existing plants. I had two of these proudly sitting on the Naya wall just opposite the entrance to my front door. But for some reason this one just started dying, it was just too hot. Despite giving it some shade I was left with giving it the plant equivalent of “extreme unction”. This involves trimming back the plant to bare basics to relieve the stress on the roots and then placing it on the potting bench in the recovery position. The jury is still out, but I believe the last rites have been correctly applied.
My second big failure this Summer is the lack of Butternut Squash. I have had the foliage and lots of flowers, but the end product is missing. Every day I hopefully peek under the leaves to check that I haven’t missed a little baby squash starting it’s journey. But to date not a thing in sight; I am left like Mr Micawber hoping that “something will turn up”. The photo below is worth a thousand words.