Coping with the heat and the wildlife…
Summertime and the living is easy………. Or so the song would have us believe. All the Indications so far this year and future predictions, are for a return to the traditional French summer which equates to a very warm July and August, anyone remember August 03?
French summers are notoriously warm. Over the past 4 years we may have had a taste of summer for a few days or even a few weeks. But how many of us have experienced the constant 24/7 for month after month? And the violent storms that can arrive at any time of day.
As always, be aware of what you want to do and when to do it. What you may have been able to achieve last year or a couple of years ago may be out of reach this year. For many people this year could well be a wake up call and a very warm welcome to the Limousin
Time of day is the rule of thumb at this time of year. There are times when it is easier and safer to perform different tasks. This year will be an important year for many due to the proposed high heat levels, the best tip I can give anyone is watch what your French neighbours do. Talk to them and ask them why they do what they do when they do.
Do not get angry if your holiday slumber is disturbed at 8 am by the drone of a rotovators engine, get up, take your neighbour a café and ask he or she why they turning the soil over, what are they going to plant there. Don’t worry it won’t last all day; it will usually stop around 11 am to midday (but expect another couple of mornings when you’ll be woken up by roto alarm).
Also remember, that 7 pm or later in the evening will be roughly the time the lawnmowers, strimmers and hedge trimmers (for the brave at heart) will make an appearance. Again, let it go, this is France and this is how they do it and will continue to do it and the reason being, is that it makes sense.
Do not try to perform too much digging, only dig if you feel you really HAVE to and CAN do. To find out how hard your ground is, take a garden fork to where you propose to dig and observe the level of resistance from the ground as you spike it. Then try to imagine what it would be like using a spade. Most of the ground is very hard now and is only going to get harder so watch it.
Relaxing or enjoying your garden, either way get a hat with a big brim that provides shade for your face and the back of your neck. A Panama may not be as trendy as an American baseball cap, but it provides a higher level of protection to sunburn.
Sunglasses are another practical addition if you are spending a lot of time again either working or enjoying the garden. The glare of constant sunshine without eye protection, can and will take its toil on muscles around your eyes, that could well then lead to your forehead and the back of your neck aching.
Go for a pair that are comfortable and will stay on if you bend forward. The type that fits by hooking around the back of your ear, are again not haute couture, but, they do the job to a superior degree.
Remember, that sunglasses are not a replacement for safety glasses, the type that should be used when using garden machinery or other types of machines that require eye protection.
Be careful when entering a building (especially when carrying something) from outside when it has been very sunny, as your eyes will need time to adjust to an area with lower light levels.
Sunburn, sitting on a beach in sea breeze weather of 35 degrees is not an indicator to and cannot be compared to gardening at 25 or 27 degrees here in the Limousin.
The UV readings/levels are high here in this area of France and if you pay scant regard to them you will burn. Make sure you know what the UV readings are for each day and protect your skin properly with the appropriate methods that are available.
Garden nasties: The snakes are about so as usual be aware of them and remember they can come from anywhere.
Guepes (wasps) and Fellons (hornets) may well have built a nest in your roof, walls or garden.
With regard to your garden, if you have failed to cut your grass or failed to have your grass cut for you for a period of months, there could be and I stress could be, either a wasp or hornet nest lurking in the soil just below the undergrowth.
So be careful when strimming long grass, because they could be there.
The darling demon drink: What can be better on a warm sunny day than sitting on the terrace admiring your French garden while sipping a cool aperitif? Remember a time and a place for everything, by all means have a drink, but wait till the work for the day has finished.
Never, never, never use garden machinery or tools when/after you have consumed alcohol.
Yes, I know it may seem stupid to remind people, but why do people have to be reminded every year?
And furthermore, just because its summer, it does not mean it’s safe to mow the lawn in a swimming costume or open toe sandals either, you wouldn’t do this in autumn.
Just use common sense, the manner in which land here reacts to its environment is totally different to the UK.
Plan your jobs and at what time, if you get hot, stop. If it gets too hard to do, leave it and get it completed at another time. Drink plenty of water that’s not too cold and take plenty of breaks. Use a towel or a handkerchief to mop your brow and not your arm that’s covered in grass cuttings.
In summer the only hard tasks (apart from being totally on top of a vegetable garden) should be mowing the lawn, dead heading plants and watering. If you’re doing more than that, ask yourself, am I doing this at the wrong time of year?
Now if any of you still think that your garden is a safe place to venture into and have the courage to do so, here are some ideas that you may want to employ.
Now is the time to try and protect and prolong the flowers and plants in your garden. Continue to deadhead the flowers of the plants that need it. By cutting off spent blooms on plants such as Buddleia, Crepe Myrtle and Rose of Sharon you will invigorate them to form even more flowers.
Watering, surprisingly 7am to 8 am is the time most older locals can be seen with a watering can in their hands.
The younger with vegetables will have been up and picking by 5 am and watering by 6 am prior to going to work.
We can set our watch by the time our 89 year old neighbour is in her garden watering her pots and plants.
Madame Dupuy is normally seen between 7.45 and 8.15 am, the reason for this as she tells us, is because she is not as young as she used to be and she would prefer to water them earlier. Again watch what the locals do, Madame Dupuy applies a lengthy and generous amount of water as she then explains that her plants will need it for the hot day ahead and watering early allows the foliage to dry off before the summer sun sets in.
Watering in the evening is just as important especially if you are a rose grower. Watch out for pests on the roses, the natural thing to do once they are spotted is to go and get the spray. This time hold on, they (the pests) are already there and are not going anywhere. Look at the condition of your leaves, are they lush green and slightly waxy (depending on the variety). If yes, continue what you’re doing and spray when the bees have returned to their hives.
If they do not look to good and the leaf veins look a little too pronounced or yellowish in colour, they need water before you spray. If you spray your rose while it is a little weak, you could be doing more harm than good to your plant. Give the plant a chance to re-hydrate, but, again be careful, as too much water can be just as bad as too little. When spraying roses in close proximity to other flowering plants, place cardboard between to two to prevent over spray to the adjoining plant and continue to dead head faded rose blooms.
Pinch your mums for the last time around the 4th of this month. This is to ensure bushy plants for this autumn. Keep their height to about 12 inches, if you prefer to leave them a little longer (time wise) before you do this, then please do.
Now is a good time to consider what to do with Azaleas, Laurels, Pieris and Rhododendrons. You may want to spread some super-phosphates around their base; this is to promote a heavy flower bud formation this summer.
Bedding plants, no sooner are they in and we are looking at how to extend them. People from the British Isles normally like to fertilise bedding plants one last time for a good boost of bloom on into autumn sometime in July.
Though when we moved to the Limousin we decided to leave this application of a last fertilizer a little longer and got a fair show until late October. Again it is up to you, if you are happy with how yours are lasting, then do not change what you are doing. Though this year can I suggest that a small section is fertilised a little later on (between the first 7 – 14 days in August), watch and see if it works or not.
Indoor plants, again keep away from direct sunlight the ones that don’t like it and be careful how you water them. By this I mean using a water that is too cold (straight from the cold tap), if you can, try to keep your plant water as near to room temperature as you can.
Container, baskets and pots. Turn all the afore said on a daily basis. This is to ensure that all the plants get an equal amount of sunshine and subsequently, you should be rewarded with a full show of flowers all around the pot.
BEES: For those of you in the know, but mainly for those of you not in the know. The humble honey bee and its relations have been declining at an alarming rate recently.
So alarming that from the US to major Euro countries such as France, UK, Spain, Portugal and Germany. People in high places are taking notice of what the scientists are saying and the reason is this.
In the winter of 2008 a survey by US apiary inspectors showed that 36% of America’s 2.4 million hives were lost to CCD. The survey suggested an increase of 11% over the losses of the previous year and 40% over the losses of 2006
The number of bees lost in the United Kingdom increased to 15% over the last two years while the population of butterflies and other insects is also down.
CCD stands for Colony Collapse Disorder and is basically a bee pandemic, the scientists are unsure about what it is and how to get rid of it.
The reason for concern is this, honey bees are fundamentally essential to pollinating fruit (ever wondered why you see roses at the end of an apple row), vegetables and our flowers. They help humans in many areas of research and teaching as well as maintaining wildlife all over the world.
If we lost the bee or numbers fell too low, the prospect would be grim.
Obviously no local honey could be provided which could help people who suffer from hay fever.
No commercial honey would be available or would become very low in supply.
The chance of organic produce being produced at comparative rates of non organic produce would be totally lost.
The cost of fruit and vegetables would rise to an alarming rate.
The cost of wine would rise and what would happen to future bio – fuel programmes?
Last and not least would be ‘where have all the flowers gone’
The list just keeps going on and on and does not bare thinking about.
So this year when your thinking about what to put in your garden for next year, give a bit of thought to the honey bee and what it does for you and your garden, at no charge I hasten to add.
Think about a plant in your garden that would help them, even better, think about three or four.
Well that is it for now, happy gardening and see you next month.
Article kindly provided by Mark from Oak Garden Services
You can contact Mark directly if you would like more information on gardening or the services they offer
Tel: 05 55 98 62 03
Email: [email protected]