Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Patience and Persistence

They always say that in order to be a good gardener you have to be an optimist. I also think that Patience and Persistence are important qualities to have, and this year it has been more important than ever.

The long hot dry spell has been a particular trial for gardeners - especially veg-gardeners. It has brought a constant need for watering - and then watering again, and more watering. Vegetable plants are particularly vulnerable to lack of water. If they don't get enough of it they often "close down" - they stop growing, or become tough and woody instead of succulent like we want them to be. And watering occasionally (only when you remember, or when your social life allows) it not enough. It needs to be constant and regular. I have been watering my home garden every day during the dry spell, and doing the Courtmoor plot every other day. I reckon I'm spending something like 10, possibly 12 hours a week just watering. A person who lacks that Persistence quality could easy lose heart and give up. Furthermore, this sort of regime doesn't leave much opportunity for other garden tasks, does it? I'm very glad I am Retired and don't have to go to work these days! In this age of technology I suspect many gardeners will be setting reminders on the phones or tablets so that they don't forget the watering after a busy day at work.

The irony of this situation is that when watered efficiently, most plants love the hot weather and often grow better than normal, because they are not having to struggle against wind, rain and low temperatures. As an example of this I cite my chillis. In a more typical English Summer they are often a bit unenthusiastic and set only a few fruit because many of their flowers get damaged or blown/washed away and don't get pollinated. This year though, most of my chilli plants are laden with fruit.

Chilli "Small Red Turkey" (nickname)

If you are a gardener gifted with patience you just have to keep plugging away in the knowledge that your dedication will get you a harvest in due course. "Good things come to those who wait!" I'm thinking here of my "Boltardy" beetroot, sowed on April 18th. Yes, they are swelling, but My Goodness, it seems as if they are taking an age. I'll be honest and admit that I should have thinned them out, but I didn't, so they are a bit crowded and this will be slowing their growth as they will all be vying for the scarce moisture. Still, I've managed to pick two small batches already so the row will gradually be thinned!

Beetroot "Boltardy"

By the way, I should just point out that "Boltardy" is an ideal beetroot variety for growing in very dry conditions because it lives up to its name and very seldom bolts even when under stress.

One thing that I find helpful when it comes to exercising patience is the fact that I keep records of the dates when I sow all my seeds. I use an MS Word document for this. It means that I can compare the current year with previous ones and if I think something is taking longer to develop than normal, I can see if it's actually true or just my perception. This blog of mine serves as a good reference too, since I often write about planting and harvesting.

Naturally, I'm applying my Patience and Persistence policy to my Winter Squashes. I'm not expecting them to be ready for at least another couple of months (these were also sown on April 18th), but I feel sure that as long as I keep them watered it is only a matter of time before I get my long-awaited harvest. At present they seem to be healthy enough and several of the flowers have set fruit.

I was initially worried that I might not get any Butternuts because the embryonic fruit were always aborted, but this one looks more hopeful:

Butternut squash "Sweetmax"

There are two "Crown Prince" fruits that are definitely growing, and another couple that might be OK. This one is now as big as my hand.

Winter Squash "Crown Prince"

I'm sure I must have said this before: gardening as a hobby can be very relaxing and enjoyable, but it can also be challenging; frustrating; exhausting; sometimes repetitive (cf watering), but ultimately (given persistence and patience) hugely rewarding!


  1. Well Mark, there is also over attentiveness. I sowed three varieties of chilli back on 27th January. They have had pride of place in the propogator and then the (unheated) greenhouse. They have not thrived losing leaves at a very slightly slower rate than growing new ones. It now seems I have been overwatering them! Hungarian Hot Wax has been the worst but I haven't had one flower yet on any variety. How often do you water your chillis?

    1. In current hot dry conditions I'm watering mine daily, but not much. They are all outdoors of course. I also mist them with the hosepipe set to a very fine spray because I think this helps to disperse pollen and thus increase chances of setting fruit.

  2. I do know what you mean about othergardening jobs being neglected. We are watering at least every other day. Between us we are logging us between 4 and 6 hours every two days.

  3. I keep a record of sowing dates too along with harvesting dates and crop records. I use Microsoft Excel rather than Word. The down side of keeping records is I know how bad this year's potato harvest has started. Plenty of photos helps too.

  4. Good for you with all that patience. I think this is a lot of the problem I have with growing things here. It is always hot and dry. This spring was probably our wettest ever but we are back to hot and dry now. During the summer here you basically need to water at least twice a day and when it is already hot enough to take your breath away when you step outside...well, gardening can become "not worth it" really easily. I will live with looking at your wonderful garden until I have a better place to garden myself.


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