Summer gardening in the Lot and Quercy“Summer time and the living is easy”. July is the month when you can reap the benefits of all the hard work that you have put in May and June. With the heat the grass isn’t growing, so the mower only needs to come out once every week or ten days to top the weeds, the shrubs are trimmed after flowering and the vegetable garden only needs a hoe over it once a week to keep any seedling weeds at bay and to sustain the dust mulch. Now is the month par excellence for passing an evening on the terrace, dead heading a few geraniums, watering potted plants and enjoying that well earned glass of something………..and then I woke up and it was all a dream!

What a month! The rain and the low temperatures mean that everything in the garden is growing like mad and very happy, everything that is apart from the gardener. We are mowing lawns twice a week and strimming around the hedges to such an extent that the fuel bill for the garden machines is becoming noticeable. I have given up totally with the herbaceous border and now claim that it is meant to look like that – we are “encouraging native species” i.e. totally overwhelmed by weeds, or as my daughter, the conservationist says, “ wild flowers in the wrong place”. We are staying off the vegetable garden as much as possible to avoid compacting the wet soil, but we appear to be in for huge crops, should we ever get enough sun to ripen things. If any one reading this has a holiday home here that they haven’t visited since Easter or Whitsun, be prepared for a bit of jungle exploration in order to find the front door.

Thinking of what I have written over the last few months I feel a bit like Cassandra, who was doomed to have her prophecies ignored – I warned against les Saintes Glaces – we had thirty degrees, I advocated putting water retaining crystals in the compost of pots and hanging baskets – I am regularly emptying trays in which pots are standing to prevent the roots drowning – I think I’ll just stay quiet. Even the June drop of top fruit hasn’t happened and we are having to thin the apples. (I am going to use some of the immature apples to make pectin extract for jam making – chop them up, cover with water and simmer until soft, put the mess through a jelly bag and keep the resulting juice to add to jam that is difficult to set.)

What to do this month – At least with these weather conditions it is a good time for taking soft wood cuttings of favourite shrubs – not too hot and dry (HAH!) As young eating grapes are setting look to thin the berries that make up the bunches, if you want decent sized table grapes. As to the rest it really is do what you can when you can.

A while back I sent for a catalogue from Peter Beales, Classic Roses in England – if you are looking for an old, well loved rose try them, – and have just had their latest emailed newsletter. The weather in England has produced very good roses, as here, and they are also suffering from the roses “balling” before they open. Now consider their nurseries and the dead heading they have to do …..they are asking people along to a free barbecue and a chat to their experts, in exchange for them bringing gloves and secateurs and doing their dead heading for them. Brilliant idea – how about, learn to double dig my vegetable garden, just bring a spade, or learn hedge trimming, bring the chain saw – it opens up all sorts of interesting prospects.

Happy gardening!

© Mamiaj 2007

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