Garden Views-09-September 2022

September 2022 began with the garden gripped by the drought-like conditions that lasted for much of the year. However, dawn on September 1st gave a hint that things were about to change.

Officially, our part of Wales, like much of the UK, had a drought declared in late August, the first time this has occurred since the hot summer of 1976, though I was still a teenager and didn’t know this lovely part of the world, back then.

The Met Office summary here gives the details for this exceptional time.

Frankly, this year has been extremely demanding with hand watering and other conservation methods necessary for many months since April, in an effort to eke out our spring water supply, and avoid too much impact on our stream, which derives a small part of its flow from the overflow from our spring and its holding tank in the mountain high above us.

Although I’ve managed to avoid obvious plant fatalities, many plants have shown signs of stress at times.

Eventually, in August I’d set up containers beneath drip lines of our barns to catch the limited rain we had, bought an excellent little Bosch Li-ion powered immersible water pump to help to move water around and spray onto distant parts of the garden,, and finally sourced some cheap 1,000 litre IBC containers to locate around the property as extra water back-up supplies for the garden, for future hot, dry events.

Needless to say, we couldn’t fill these during such a drought, but the decision to purchase them was guaranteed to prelude a change in the weather. This duly happened on September 3rd, with a run of stormy, windy, and rainy days arriving, which brought the long-running high-pressure weather systems which had led to the drought, to a close. I suspect that photo opportunities will now become much more limited, and the IBCs will be moved into their preferred locations, and filled from abundant spring water in due course.

Just before the weather changed, (and taking the recent advice from a 50 years of- experience beekeeper at the Oxford Natural Beekeeping Group, “Unlearning Beekeeping” , that he never looks in his hives during August to reduce the risk of robbing) I opened 3 of the 6 bee colonies to (hopefully) remove some honey.

Honey harvest is a secondary aim of me keeping bees, but after this hot dry summer, I did want to try to lay down some stores for us for the years ahead, and interestingly the most productive colony by far was the swarm which I’d housed back in June, which had built out a full box of pristine, comb honey, on entirely newly produced wax with no foundation. (An insulated conventional National super, so only 9 frames), with another 3 frames of still uncapped nectar. As well as removing this, the bees are hopefully left with sufficient stores in their two boxes to help them through the winter with no supplementary feeding, which is how I choose to manage the colonies here.

As the weather changed and 140 mm of rain fell in a week, the whole nation was rocked by the sudden death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th, just 2 days after she had been visited by the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. 10 days of national mourning was declared. It indeed was a sombre way for autumn to begin. A time for much reflection.

The rain then stopped. 

 

We had a few days away, then what will possibly be our last group of garden visitors of the year on a lovely sunny, if chilly day.

The weather continued to be mainly dry, as we began our annual external decorating effort, as the sun quickly began to track the Western horizon as dawn as we headed past the autumnal equinox, and both the garden, and the gardeners began to settle down to shorter days, boosted by many glorious sunrises.

A generally poor year for butterflies, dragonflies, wasps and many flies was enlivened by yet another Hummingbird hawkmoth, a hatch of Small Copper butterflies in the upper meadow, and a Golden-ringed dragonfly in the garden, just before the end of the month.

Asters were, as they often seem to be, only just getting going in the last week of September.