Derek – Friday 17th September 2021
Over the next week, we’ll disassemble the display of plants from the continent of America. Reluctant as I am to part company with the Americana, those plants on the sleepers are becoming an eyesore. We’ll leave the sunflowers while they are flowering; the largest are over 6 feet high with their bright yellow clock-like faces. The undergrowth of butternut squash may get a little bigger, depending on the weather. There’s four fruits, pale yellow, like small bulbous truncheons. They’ll make a few pies on a cool autumn evening.
Here’s how the other Americana fared.
The dwarf beans got munched to death by snails, there’s next to nothing of them left, though they managed a few beans. The peanuts had lots of leaf, but flowered only indoors with no sign of nuts, which aren’t really nuts but grow underground. I was hoping to see this, but the plant is semi-tropical and needs a hot summer with many days in the 30s to flower and set seed. So not unexpected.
The potatoes were no problem, growing on as spuds do. We haven’t dug them up, but I reckon we’ll get a reasonable crop. Potato and leek soup has been suggested for one of our events. The tomatoes are a cherry variety and have given us lots of fruit in the last month.
The quinoa grew well. It was attacked by snails but not utterly ravaged, and has good heads of seed. The plant is so similar to fat hen that early on I wondered whether we had been duped by the seed merchant. The maize started off well, but we have only a couple of cobs. I noted this in the cereal project last year. They are not happy in cardboard boxes and need more plants around them to fertilize the female flowers for a good crop.
I am pleased with the sugar cane. No snail attacks. I noted last summer with our cereal project; gastropods don’t go for grasses. The cane has fluffy flowers, turning now to seed, and is about 30 inches tall. Not quite the eight feet you might see on a West Indian plantation, but outside in the UK, in a cardboard box, you can’t expect any more inches. The peppers needed a lot of cosseting early on. I covered them each night for about a month to keep snails off. And now we have green and yellow peppers, quite small; I doubt they’ll get much bigger as we head further into autumn.
Our poor cardboard boxes! They are sagging and elderly, close to collapse, bombarded by the rain in June and July. It’s a wonder they got this far. But we have shown, for a second season, that if you need a container to grow veg for a season, then cardboard boxes are a cheap (free) option. And once the season is at an end, they can go on the compost heap.
The above plants, with the exception of sugar cane, have been grown by native peoples for thousands of years in America. Sugar cane was included in the project as Europeans introduced it to the Americas, from the East Indies, in the early 16th century, and it was a paramount crop in the dreadful centuries of the slave trade.
There are many fat spiders around, mostly the garden crucifix spider. This has a crucifix down its thorax and abdomen, and stripy legs, reminding me of the leggings popular in the 60s. Perhaps they shop at Biba. The spiders in their webs are bulging with eggs which they will release in a sac in the next few weeks. That done, the spider will die in the cold of late autumn, leaving the egg sac to hatch in spring. We witnessed the release in late May this year, later than usual because of the chilly spring. Under one of our tables, hundreds of tiny spiders were breaking free of the threads of the sac to head into the vicissitudes of the garden. Just a fraction will have made it to adulthood.
The next door building site has a quadrangle, just over our fence. Lots of rich looking soil has gone into it. Likely it will be planted out soon, to be a green, quiet area for the residents, with perhaps a few benches. I wonder if it will have a water tap. If so, might we utilise it in the garden? I have two thoughts on this. We could ask Gateway Housing Association, the developers, for a spur to us, or simply ask if we can use it by attaching a hose, say twice a week in the summer. That’s if a tap is going in.
We are having a meeting in two weeks to discuss the water problem. Fine now, with all the rain we had on Tuesday, but looking ahead to next year and beyond, when there will inevitably be periods of drought, how will we manage?
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