Summer can’t last forever

Today is hot.  There is a gentle breeze coming off the sea, but in the microclimate of my garden, the wind speed monitor is turning lazily without a care in the world.  The hot sun beats down on the black sand paths, bouncing the heat from the dark surface, making it impossible to walk across barefoot.  The golden brown of the spent grasses on the hillsides and the intense blue of the sky all work together to make the garden seem like a scorching hot zone, where gardening is, for the moment, undesirable.  The best times to make the most of the garden are first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon and early evening.

summer sky
The sky is blue and the hills are brown

Fortunately, there isn’t much to be done in the garden – well nothing of great urgency.  The weeds are under control with my weekly routine of staying on top of the little ones.  The watering, thanks to the swamp soil I bought with me only needs to be done every 3 – 4 days and can go even longer at a push.  The harvest is great, although due to everything going in later than I would have liked isn’t really at that glut status yet, and I suspect the best I will end up with will be in the realms of ‘manageable’.  I have great hopes for next season when everything will go into the garden in a timely fashion.

View to sea
The sea breeze is a real blessing and takes the edge off a hot day.

But what I am beginning to see, while I certainly don’t feel it, is the beginning of the end of summer.  For example, I harvested my sweetcorn the other day and vacuum sealed it and popped it into the freezer to bring sunshine to a winter day.  Sweetcorn is always such a dramatic crop to grow and at its height, it dominates the landscape of the garden as it towers above everything else.  However, once the ears are plucked, there is no reason to leave it there and so it makes sense to chop it down.  The result is the garden no longer looks the same.  There is something missing.  Like when someone you’ve always known to wear a moustache suddenly shaves it off.  It doesn’t look or feel right.

Frozen sweetcorn
Frozen sweetcorn is the best way to bring sunshine to a winter day


There are still plenty of crops in the garden and many will be there for sometime to come, like the pumpkins who will be there until the bitter end, as their leaves dry up and wither away.  The peppers should keep going until the frost takes them out, and to be honest they are really only just getting started now.  Having said that, we don’t get frosts here.  I wonder if that means they’ll just keep going.  I’m looking forward to testing this one out!

The pumpkins are in for the long haul and still have a long time to go before the harvest can begin and the plants removed.

But slowly and surely the crops within the garden will be either eaten and enjoyed like the brassicas and the beetroot or give up the will to live after producing a bountiful harvest for months on end like the cucumbers and zucchini.  This inevitable end will not only mark the passing of the season, but create empty beds.  But the thing is nature abhors bare soil and will seek to colonise it immediately and the golden seed heads from the grasses on the hill have probably be eyeing up my fertile soil all summer long.  I need to do something to protect my beds over the winter.

The peppers are just starting to kick in and each plant hides many fruit.

The first thing I can do is grow more crops.  The winter crops aren’t half as exciting or as numerous as the summer selection, however I have the space and can ensure my winter diet need not be stodgy.  I need to make a plan.  I need to check the seeds I have and see if there are other exciting-ish crops that can fill my beds and make my winter gardening experience delightful.

Sandy garden path
The heat radiating from the black sand paths is pretty intense in the middle of the day.

Realistically it won’t be possible to fill all the beds.  There is only so much cabbage one can force ones family to eat.  And then there are other things to consider, will a bed filled with winter cabbage, mostly uneaten…  run into congestion problems in the spring.  Will my poor family be eating cabbage in every meal so their space can be cleared in time to plant the new season peas?  Or could I get away with putting a long season crop in a bed destined to be occupied by the peppers that can be planted up to two months later than the peas?  This all needs to be considered.

summer sky
Some beds are already empty, like this one with the not so recently vacated onions and shallots leaving a few leeks at the other end.

Of the remaining beds, the decision needs to be made – what to do with them.  Growing a cover crop is a great way to keep the beds weed free, give winter interest and by digging them in 6 – 8 weeks before needed, the soil can be enriched and ready for the new season.  But which bed suits which cover crop?  It doesn’t make sense to follow brassicas with mustard, although a popular cover crop, as it can contribute to long term risk of club root disease as it is also a brassica.  Not just any old cover crop will do.  A legume crop will be ideal for replacing all the goodness the sweetcorn took from the soil creating those tall plants.  This needs a bit of thought.

Parsley going to seed
Even the parsley is going to seed. But I have found these green seeds can pack a parsley punch.

So, while I’m holed up inside on a hot and sunny day, waiting for the temperatures to drop, it makes perfect sense to decide what I’m doing next.

Come again soon – this summer isn’t going to last forever and I have plans to make.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

10 thoughts on “Summer can’t last forever

  1. Been very hot here in Blenheim for weeks now . Today 32 degrees in the back yard. All my veg garden I have covered with shade cloth but air temp is still wilting most stuff.

    1. It is funny that in winter we long for hot days but we they come, they are hotter than we could imagine from the depths of winter. I hope your temps drop soon to something more comfortable – 32 is pretty hot. : o)

  2. Ssh no speaking about the end of summer 🙂 We have been hot here too in South Africa but last night and this morning we are experiencing vital drenching rain. Lovely.

    I’m not sure if you are aware but the links in your email are broken – the last couple of blog posts I have been unable to click on (any) link that should take me through to post. Looking forward to seeing progress on the dome, and I envy your lovely fresh vegetables. All mine seem to be grown with plastic wrapped around them 🙂 Laura

  3. I’ve missed visiting your posts, Sarah. Busy-busy. I love your new garden, but oh my that is a lot of garden to tend. It’s quite impressive. I love the way the corn looks all bundled into freezer bags, so sweet and tasty and ready to eat. I’ve grown fava beans here as a cover crop and for the same reason you mentioned: to keep the soil from eroding and to enrich the soil for a summer crop. Everything looks wonderful. I hope the heat subsides a bit. Hot summer days do throw a wrench in to one’s garden time.

    1. I know what you mean about life getting busy. I had a huge season of busy just recently but am now finding I am able to catch my breath, which is very refreshing. I think the heatwave has come to an end as there is a decided autumnal feel to the air, which makes gardening so much more pleasant. : o)

      1. I love autumn too. Our spring is just around the corner and I’m itching to get out there, just as you are winding down. I’m glad your heatwave has subsided. I dread our summers, as the heatwaves are longer, hotter and more intense. But spring? Who doesn’t love spring!

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