Social Climbers

In the Celtic calendar it is Lammas, the festival of the grain harvest and of ripening fruits. This is the time that the garden and glasshouse should be at their verdant peak. After a bit of considered gazing around this week, I concluded that, happily, we have risen to that air of abundance.

The tomatoes are coming thick as passata;  getting good reviews and flying off whatever stalls we put them on. Now I wish we’d planted more, though if you catch me waxing lyrical about peppers in a month’s time, you’ll know I’ve revised this view.

Many gardeners have reported this as a “bad year for beans” [french and runners]. The obvious explanation would be that the dry spring left soil moisture levels deficient well into the summer: beans don’t ask for much except water. But even our trickle-irrigated glasshouse climbers, and late planted outdoor dwarves, have been somewhat pest-prone and lacklustre this year. Still we’ll be picking our first french ones this week and I’m expecting a reasonable harvest over the coming month. The “Kew Blue” under glass are finally resplendent in elegant dark leaves,  indigo flowers and deep purple slender pods: even a poor crop would be forgiven in the light of this yield of eye-candy, a trade-off I rarely buy in to.

We’ll let them climb, Jack and the Beanstalk like, above the top wire and through the glass ceiling if they care to. But the tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and gourds are now having their vertical growth terminated at precisely the height at which our six-footers, Ed and Jonny, can reach to pinch. Not long ago I could have lost these plants, like the dream of a community plant nursery, in a gust of ill wind or a tight fist; now they, and the garden they star in, is bigger than me every which way you look at it. Days pass and you find yourself only able to utter the very cliches that elderly relatives annoyed you with as a child: my, haven’t you grown…


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