High summer; the season I long for all year round. The season when I can don the swimwear, get out the extra comfy deck chair and snooze the afternoon away under an umbrella. I can hear a bee or two buzzing in the background and see, through half/closed eyelids, flowers of purple, white, yellow - perhaps a hint of vermillion - all nodding gently in the breeze.
I try to grow a lot of produce 'against' the seasons on the rooftopvegplot. By that I mean I'm planting early and late crops to extend the season and make the most of my tiny space. But the summer months progress with an inevitability that I realise I cannot, nor should not try to oppose.
April and May were about greens and fresh, healthy leaves. In June the greens went to seed and the solstice triggered the start of the fruiting period. Suddenly tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and berries started to swell. The nasturtiums have grown huge seeds this year, the size of marbles. The poppy heads are now brown. Try as hard as I can, I can't catch them to save the seed, before it pops out all over the place. Before long, the increased humidity and rainfall that comes in August, will start these self-sown seeds growing in abundance. There will be a wave of seedlings, warning me that autumn is just around the corner. If I want winter crops I will need to sow soon.
The bugs are also displaying new phases in their life-cycle. Late spring saw swarms of fat green and purple aphids. Then in June, I spotted the larvae of the ladybird. Now these larvae have eaten most of the aphids and turned into ladybirds that eat at a more leisurely pace. I have seen the white carcasses of aphid body cases where hoverflies have parasitised them. Today the midday air is thick with flying creatures; with honey bees, bumble bees, flies, aphids, ants and wasps, all playing their part in pollination and predation.
The beans started to flower a week or two ago. The purple flower of French beans, Cosse Violette seem to have won the race in attracting insects. I've picked my first crop today. It was delicious.
But despite many luxuriant blooms of the creamy-white runner beans, 'Cobra', I can't see any tell-tail beanlets yet. This happens every year. I begin to feel desperate; I contemplate using a paint brush. Then, suddenly, it all comes right. A few scorching days and the runner beans will start to set. They are not impatient. They, unlike me, wait for when the time is right.
As I sit in the garden today I can see hoverflies supping on the sticky honeydew that a few stray aphids have produced. A large cabbage white flutters by. (I don't care too much - there is no cabbage here). None of these creatures seem interested in the flowers, only the buds where the aphids live. I can see a bumblebee dropping lazily onto the upturned dish of a bronze fennel flower, its golden petals zing, like jewellery, against the blue sky. Now the bee drops down to the lavender flowers, investigating the interior. Even at this distance I can see the distinctive round shape of a ladybird as it hoovers up a few blackfly from the underside of a runner bean leaf. Other, smaller hoverflies have chosen the tiny white stars of celery flowers, white Allium and Helichrysum for their lunch. A spider sits stock-still in the shade at the edge of her web, hoping that something will come her way. She is a reminder of the complex chain of fly, spider, frog up to horse and even human, parodied in the nursery rhyme, "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly."
But I am reminded of another song, the Pete Seeger classic, 'Turn, Turn, Turn'. What Seeger realised, when he added this triple word chant onto those familiar words from Ecclesiastes, is the inevitability of there being a time to sow and a time to reap. It is not the separation of the seasons into their different functions that is poignant, but the inevitability of the sequence of events.
Those of us who are attached to the land and thus more cognisant of the seasons, even in our urban chic, containerised, designery way, are aware of the progress of life, as it passes us by. No sooner have we sown, than we are dealing with a glut, or needing to prune or trying to fit just a few more plants in somewhere, or clearing away spent crops. Gardening is a merry-go-round. There never is a season to take breath, especially when the vegplot must remain productive all year round.
As I turn once more to contemplate high summer and the autumn that must come after it, I need to take a tip from the bugs and the beans, the cucumbers, the wineberry, the fennel in my garden. It is their day today. They bring forth their bounty on cue. The seasons are set. Enjoy the summer, for it will not last.
I wrote this yesterday. Today, as I checked the runner beans, I found several tiny beanlets. The process has started!
As I was writing this my new friend Mrs M, was writing about my garden. Delighting in the Tiny It is so beautifully written! (Head expands two sizes)