The repeated pattern of the weather over our summer months has been: sun and a bit of warmth for two, maybe three days; heavily overcast, cool, grey days that hold in the sound of aircraft engines; two or three days of rain, some gentle showers, some heavy down pours, accompanied by thunder and lightening. It has done wonders for keeping the grass green and lush. Officially, this has been the coolest summer in Great Britain in eighteen years. And the result is that crops that need heat and sun to flourish and ripen have been stunted—for example my tomatoes and strawberries.
Seeing as how all my plants are in pots, they need regular feeding with fertilizer. I’ve used both Miracle Grow and a local brand. I must say that once I became consistent with the feeding, my plants cheered up and the blossoms actually started fruiting.
The tomato plants have lots of little green tomatoes. To date only one has ripened—and I ate it on Monday (22nd): firm, juicy, sweet—still not the size of a golf-ball. Disappointing when one thinks I planted tomatoes that should have been at least two or three inches in diameter. What other tomatoes are on the vine are no bigger than marbles. I will leave them and see if they get bigger and/or ripen. I’m not keen on green tomatoes—though I know some people like them.
The strawberry plants have given me about half-a-dozen sweet berries. I suppose I would be doing very well with them if I had more than three plants. Yet, it is pleasing to walk out onto my balcony and notice about three or four blossoms coming on just as I pick the other ripe berries.
Three weeks ago Midnight Man went blackberry picking. We’ve had black-berry crumble, black-berry and apple crumble and just plain berries. On Thursday morning (25th August) I had about a litre of berries and new I had to do something with them, or they would all go off. They had already been frozen and then thawed once, so they couldn’t be refrozen. I found a packet of pectin (from 2004) in my cupboard and made a small batch of jam. I think there was too much juice, as it is more like syrup than jam. But it tastes great! And blackberry syrup goes nicely on pancakes, ice cream and toast. So I’m not disappointed.
The apple trees in our vicar’s garden are now ripe and dropping lot of apples quickly. Midnight Man has brought home a bushel of apples—and we’ve enjoyed crumble, baked apples and simply eating them raw. But I had a bunch that I need to cook and/or preserve, or they would all spoil. So, I baked the apples, first I peeled the apples, sliced them, then sprinkled brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg on them. I’ve never liked apples baked in the skin. So it was a lovely treat to have warm, cooked apples for dessert. And Midnight Man kept going back until they were all gone. I don’t know if I’ll get enough apples this year to make apple butter. And the other factor is having enough energy to actually do it.
Two sunflowers bloomed beautifully. But one stock broke—so I had to cut the flower off. L However, the other flower has been delightful. When I sit on the couch, I can see out onto the balcony and enjoy the big, yellow flower dance in the wind. Some evenings the sky is azure and the yellow contrasts to create a Mediterranean feel. Later in the evening, the skies turn rosy, then golden and there is a hint of autumn as the gold petals of the sunflower hint at the yellow the tree leaves will turn. Such a simple pleasure. The photo I took is facing east in the evening—with a large sycamore tree in the background.
As I was writing this, I talked myself into pulling some carrots—to make sure they weren’t rotting and to see how big they had grown. As you can see, there are a couple of nice sized carrots and others that are small and round. Since the vegetable crisper drawer if full of large carrots, I guess I’d better start eating some—and improve my eyesight!
The beet root are doing well—although I have a feeling that since I’ve not thinned them out, they will all be small instead of having some nice sized one. The leaves are still a pretty colour.
Since July there have been no more beans. I suppose I could dig up the plants and put in some autumn plants—like chrysanthemums. Those will grow through November into December.
In July I bought two marigold plants and a geranium plant at a “Save the Children” event hosted by a friend of ours. The geranium has doubled in size and will soon bloom—which I’ve very excited about.
Pepper plants were purchased in May at a friend’s plant sale. Bugs did a fine job of nibbling them, so I thought they would die. But I sprayed them with insecticide, just to see what would happen. Green leaves indicated recovery, and so I resumed watering. I am curious to see if I do get any peppers this late in the year.
That’s the update on the balcony garden. I hope you enjoy the photos. J
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith, “Lady Helene”