After a very few hot sunny days at the month’s beginning, the conditions changed, with low temperatures and frequent showers or periods of rain. At the month’s end, temperatures dipped to about 2 degrees C on a clear night, across several areas of the UK. Click here for the Met Office summary for the month. In the end July had only 7 dry 24 hour periods and none of these were consecutive, so the annual manual hay making effort was hugely challenging. Though fortunately rainfall totals weren’t dramatic – in contrast to the usually dry East Anglia, where Cambridge registered 87.1 mm in a 24 hour period on July 16 th. Click here for more.
On more than one occasion hay had to be loaded into big bags and dragged under tarpaulins after unexpected showers threatened to ruin it. Then brought out days later to be shaken out , tossed and dried before re-bagging and baling.
The experience has begun a major rethink about how we manage the field and land in future years. However at least we have a barn full of fresh smelling hay in anticipation of a harsh winter. Will our hunch prove to be correct?
In spite of the generally poor July, the increasing number of native flowers in the hay meadow resulted in a great summer for meadow butterflies and moths – large numbers of Skippers (Large and Small), Meadow Browns, Ringlets and also day flying Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths, and even a Scarlet Tiger Moth.
The rest of the garden has performed in an average way – roses have in the main been a little disappointing with all the wet around, but Clematis and Hydrangeas have been better than ever. And the Big Bag Bottle Bank vegetable garden, now tidied up and mulched with home created wood chip for inter bag paths, has performed better than any vegetable garden I’ve ever managed – which is not frankly saying much. But in a generally cool summer, with poor light levels, focusing on those crops which I know we can grow, and enjoy eating, has paid dividends – leeks, carrots, beetroot, spinach, parsnips, courgettes, squash, pumpkins, kale, chard. In spite of the greenhouse heating system, the low light levels have meant very slow tomato ripening, though apricots and nectarines have again surprised with their size and flavour.