Today is the last day of September, a gorgeous blue day , with much welcome warmth and sunshine helping the last of the summer crops to ripen. Most of the outdoor planting has been finished, with some spring greens plants still to go out. I have started to clear the polytunnel, mostly aubergines and cucumbers that have finished, with the tomatoes coming out soon in order to fill it with winter salads and vegetables.
Now I am busy harvesting and preserving. The freezer is almost completely full so most of the remaining fruit and vegetables are being made into chutneys and jams, dehydrated, made into wine, preserved using alcohol or vinegar or bottled using a Weck machine. I think the Weck canning jars are beautiful. In this photo, the tomatoes (which are simply medium and large tomatoes, chopped and cooked before canning, including seeds and skins) are cooling and so I haven’t removed the preserving clips yet.
The kitchen is full of boxes of vegetables including tomatoes, beans, beetroot, chillis, courgettes (including oversized ones, great in soup), onions, cucumbers and the last aubergines – these I am going to make into a tomato-onion-aubergine dish with smoked paprika and chilli, enough to save some for the winter: it is delicious both hot and served cool as a salad.
Earlier this summer, my little cherry tree produced its first ‘real’ harvest of around 40 sweet ripe cherries (last year I got about 6). As they began to ripen, I wrapped the tree in enviromesh to keep the hungry birds off my precious cherries, using household pegs to clip in in place. It looked very strange, especially at night, resembling a ghost tree! The strawberry patch also needed protection from birds and again I used enviromesh, laid across the plants and pegged down with clips and tent pegs.
During the summer months I moved my small potted lime and lemon trees into the polytunnel (they spend the winter on the windowsill of my study) – I have had three limes and just one lemon. They are interesting to grow but certainly not very productive in our climate.
Outside, the vegetables are so abundant during the summer it is impossible to list them all. Favourites include Florence Fennel (last year I grew this over winter in the polytunnel, shall be trying it again this year, for early spring fennel), summer squash, broccoli and salad. Filled with abundance, the kitchen garden looked beautiful this summer. I was happy to show Tom Stuart Smith, Penelope Hobhouse and Kevin McCloud round it one afternoon – they were very complimentary, Kevin said that my garden is “not only a labour of love, it is a labour of brilliance and expertise!”
Sadly, the allotment next to mine has been abandoned. It really was never started when the new tenancy commenced in April. Then, the allotment was weed free and mulched, ready for the new person to enjoy growing. Sadly it is now completely overgrown, more like a lawn than an allotment, such a waste in a small town with a very long waiting list for allotments. Fortunately a neighbour has been strimming it, which has stopped the weeds becoming too much, but my allotment is suffering from an increased number of annual weed seeds blowing on and perennials such as tormentil, creeping buttercup and bindweed creeping in, making extra work for me. It is lovely for the wildlife, but I am concerned that if allotment goes to someone new, it is in such a bad state they might choose to use some very un-wildlife friendly methods of bringing the plot back into use. I do hope not, when there are far more environmentally aware methods one can use.
The past few days have been a busy time on the computer too as two articles are being prepared for publications – one in the next issue of Permaculture Magazine, about crop protection and the other is a feature about Charles’ in November’s Gardens Illustrated which includes some of my recipes for tasty meals using home grown winter vegetables.