The disappointing end to June continued into early July, with generally cool temperatures, and rain on most days. As the month progressed, and the mid-range forecasts showed no signs of an imminent summer high pressure system, for the second year running, we became twitchy about the prospects for manual hay making this year.
In the end, a forecast scant 36 hours dry weather window on July 13th saw me wheeling out the BCS Powerscythe, and cutting about a fifth of the field. The meadow has changed so much since 2013, that in spite of 2 mm of rain falling overnight, cool temperatures, and a northerly wind, frequent manual turning enabled us to rescue the crop into big bags just 30 hours after cutting had taken place, around midday. Baling had to wait for a couple of days, when another brief dry interlude is promised.
As in 2015, rainfall amounts have been modest, but regular. Temperatures generally cool, and light levels down on June. In spite of this, the meadows have excelled with flower interest, whilst many plants in the garden have also thrived. I’m increasingly thinking that dried seaweed meal, hand spread throughout the garden in spring, has given many plants a boost – presumably by adding some leached out trace minerals, which will always be an issue in a sloping, high rainfall location.
A very late start to vegetable growing this year in the Big Bag Bottle bank, has nevertheless produced the best ever results, at least in part because of a more sustained and determined approach to slug control. A switch has been made to organically approved, commercial strength ferric phosphate pellets, rather than metaldehyde, which is certainly more toxic and relies on drier conditions to dessicate slugs, which lose their normal slime production capabilities, after ingesting it. Applied initially amongst the crops, as well as peripherally in a ‘cordon sanitaire’, around the big bags on the wood chip paths, has meant that for the first time, salad crops are being harvested with almost zero slug damage, and with not a single slug present amongst the harvested leaves. Applications began in early February, since after the very mild wet winter, significant slug numbers were already evident.
It must be remembered that the big bag area is directly adjacent to our hay meadow. This is the typical scene in the evening, in this meadow, where slug populations are huge, and why waxcap fungal fruiting bodies have a very short survival time. I think that this wonderful orange red mushroom, found in small clusters is the Fibrous waxcap, Hygrocybe intermedia, below. 3 separate colonies of mushrooms were found on July 15th in the hay meadow. For those who rail against using slug control pellets, I suggest a walk around a wet meadow like this to attempt to gauge the actual biomass of these creatures, and what any gardener in this environment has to contend with. In spite of this, and the generally cool conditions, common lizards are now frequently glimpsed in the big bag area of the garden.After a gloomy start to July 18th,the predicted hottest day day of 2016, and a thunderstorm filled following night on July 19th, a barely 36 hour long dry weather window, saw us processing another big swathe of hay. Turning this manually 4 times within 24 hours in low ’30’s temperatures, and then filling 18 big bags, has made us realise that we need to investigate a more mechanised, or completely different approach, in future. Our bodies just aren’t up to it. Nothing beats early morning on a day like this, and opening the door to sweet vernal scents – before the heavy dew is burned off and the slog begins.
In the end, the total rainfall for the month was 86.4 mm, which is quite a dry month for us, though sunshine levels were typically poor for July, as shown by the PV readings, which were very similar to last July’s totals. Once again, not much better than March or April’s levels, in spite of the much longer days, and warmer temperatures.