Monday, 16 July 2012

This green and pleasant garden

Well, St Swithin’s Day (15 July) has come and gone and we are once again being rained upon (thinking about it, maybe this could be a new weather saying -it even rhymes!) Whilst it didn’t actually rain yesterday (where we live, at least), it wasn’t the glorious day of sunshine the Met Office had been predicting, so I think we’re fairly safe to assume that the weather for the next 40 days and nights will be more of the same (rain, lower-than-average temperatures, more rain, etc). Sadly, the St Swithun’s Day saying:

    St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
    For forty days it will remain
    St Swithun's day if thou be fair
    For forty days 'twill rain nae mare

is based in meteorological fact, relating to the settling of the jet stream from mid-July until the end of August either to the north (continental high pressure moves in and we get sunshine) or to the south (pushing up Atlantic weather systems and we get rain). 

Looking back through my posts for this year, I notice that our garden and growing as a subject has been pretty patchy. This is probably because the growing season itself has been pretty patchy. The low spring temperatures meant that all of our plants were slow to germinate and the lack of sunshine over the past month is now affecting the ripening of fruits. The garden is currently lushly, densely green, with very little colour. Our peas and beans bed is the exception to this, as I underplanted the frames with some nasturtiums which are vibrantly orange, but peas and beans are some of the only crops we’ve had so far this summer.

By this date last year I’d already made 4 different types of preserves from strawberries, blackcurrants and raspberries. This year I’ve made a single batch of strawberry jam (8 July), the blackcurrants are only just ripe and the raspberries are mostly still green. It looks like the single batch of jam will be all we’re getting from the strawberries too, as the rain has caused quite a number of the fruits to rot on the plants. In fact, I’ve had to resort to imported citrus fruits to satisfy my preserving bug, off this year’s batch of limoncello (lemon-flavoured vodka) and then in the fine tradition of waste not, want not, using the resulting lemon juice combined with some sad-looking fridge oranges, to make a St Clements curd.

Maybe sunshine in a jar is the best we can hope for this summer.