Farewell to the summer? Tell that to the garden!

Jim Givens' sweet peas before the cucumber virus mosaic look over.
Jim Givens' sweet peas before the cucumber virus mosaic look over.

‘And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.’ The words of the bard remain so appropriate, and sprang to mind last week when the late August temperature nose-dived and certain friends were discussing central heating, sitting-room fires and hot-water bottles.

But I for one am not ready for any of that yet, nor are the butterflies and bees that are presently feasting on a diversity of blooms!

It was a strange week weather-wise, decidedly cool to begin with yet almost too hot for walking on Wednesday when we headed for the top of Yeavering in the Cheviots.

As cheerful friend Jean served up the generous pre-walk treat of coffee and cake at their Brandon home, Jim was bemoaning the cucumber virus mosaic that has swept through his show-winning sweet peas – another hint of autumn approaching.

Several such incidents have been reported recently. Viral diseases are transmitted rapidly between plants by sap-sucking aphids.

Strawberries and dahlias are particularly susceptible. This is why greenfly control is so important as summer progresses and winged aphis take to the air.

There’s no cure for virus-infected plants I’m afraid, you just have to grub them up, dispose of them carefully, and start afresh next year.

The longer you cultivate any vegetable or ornamental plant intensively on the same land, the greater the risk of disease.

But the pre-walk tour of his garden was not all doom and gloom.

Jim has already chosen a different plot for next year’s sweet peas, and will be starting the ground preparation once the show season is over.

And he smiled broadly as we were shown into a spotless greenhouse where three large boxes, filled with straw, stood on a bench.

From these he plucked a series of large, high-necked onions destined for the show bench in one month, time enough for them to fully ripen.