This is the driest summer in these parts (Shropshire) for years and for the first time I have had to resort to watering the polyculture patches. Since I began growing perennial veggies they have only been watered to help young plants establish, after that they have been left to cope with whatever comes along weatherwise. However this year’s dry conditions have meant that many plants have put on less growth than previous years and at times some of the kales have wilted.
The polycultures have lots of organic matter within and on top of the beds helps the soil retain moisture, by providing sites within the soil to capture water molecules and by shading the soil from sun and reducing evaporation. This is normally sufficient to tide the garden over dry spells but I am now having to think about how to deal with a repeat of such dry conditions.
This summer plants in shadier conditions and those which received continued mulch through the summer generally did best. Therefore part of the plan is to use as much mulch as I can through the autumn / winter / spring and see just how can be added next summer, if required. In future I aim to plant perennial greens in the shadier areas and may relocate some of the perennial roots to the more open, sunny parts, but this partly depends on what the yields turn out to later on this year when I harvest the oca, Jerusalem artichoke, Chinese artichoke, yams etc.
Happily all the kales are faring better now that the weather is cooler and a bit showery and new growth is appearing on plants that had been quite extensively nibbled – enough at least to start picking them again! Below is a picture of a Sutherland kale, now in its second summer, with oca growing around it. Earlier in the year the kale was eaten right back but as you can see it has staged a comeback.
Last autumn I planted field beans as a green manure but actually ended up leaving them in situ and harvesting the beans to eat. Some perished in the cold in winter but many made it through which is encouraging. I saved quite a number of pods and today have sown about forty seeds into pots. When the root crops are harvested I should have bean plants ready to pop in to the space (like TV gardeners do)! I have also sown some saved scorzonera seed in pots to do the same if possible.
I really hoped to make the most of saved seeds this year and was planning to save the seeds from my one sunflower. That is until a scavenging squirrel made off with the seedhead this morning and scattered the empty husks across the lawn. I never thought that this might happen and am forewarned for next year.