Looking back over over the last few months

28 August 2020

It’s an unseasonably cold, wet August Bank Holiday weekend, nearly the start of a new gardening year, and as good a time as any to look back over the last year in the gardens. First of all, apologies for another long gap between blog posts; with work suspended during the lockdown from 23 March, and a long catch-up needed in some of South Beds FoE’s gardens around Leighton, and the team’s own gardens and allotments, there hasn’t been much time for reflection and writing.

In fact the gardens have looked after themselves remarkably well, which was our aim from when this team took over five years ago. We’ve been helped by the weather, of course, with just enough rain between long, very hot dry spells, to keep most of the plants happy. Most of them even seemed to shrug off the hot dry weeks during lockdown itself – when I went round to water at last, the only plants that were wilting a bit were the wild geums in the preschool bed, and they perked up after a couple of cans of water. This may well be a result of all the compost and, particularly, leaf mould we’ve lavished on the soil at every opportunity, in the hope that all this organic matter it would help both drainage in the winter, and moisture-holding in the summer. The roses and the bottom two beds also benefitted from a mulch of good Dalefoot wool compost, which also provides food for a couple of years. We’ll be emptying the leaf mould bin and one of the compost bins soon, and mulching the third and fourth beds well this year.

We started giving all the roses a couple of cans of water each and feeding them regularly (with seaweed), which also helped, although a couple of them really aren’t happy in the hot summers we’re getting now. Apparently the two Remembrance standard roses (the bright red ones nearest the war memorial) are particularly likely to suffer with the kind of summers we’ve had over the last three years; they’ve hardly grown at all since we put them in and they drop their leaves as soon as the temperatures hit the mid-twenties, despite copious watering and cooling down. We’re mulling over what to do; perhaps we’ll leave it another year, with a good mulch of compost over the autumn, and hopefully, no second-wave Covid-19 lockdowns., so we can keep more of an eye on them.

Another benefit of the improved soil seems to be the general ecosystem in the gardens – we’ve noticed way more insects there than they used to be, and many more different types. I’m embarrassed that there are even some I can’t identify when asked as I haven’t seen them before. Earlier this month I did see a tree bumble bee (Bombus hypnorum) on the hyssop plant in the preschool children’s bed – first one I’ve seen here.

Now we’re pruning the lavender edges as they finish flowering, which means it’s time to take out all the spent annuals from the wild flower bed and dig it over (poppies prefer disturbed soil). Back in our usual routine!