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September - the Harvesting month

In the Garden (and in the Kitchen)

September is a month of harvesting and “mellow fruitfulness”! Every two days I have been picking plums, runner beans and raspberries – the apples are ready, too ,of course, also sweet corn, pumpkins, carrots, beetroot and parsnips. Every day of picking is followed by an hour or two of preparation in the kitchen – slicing and blanching the beans, splitting and de-stoning the plums and then bagging them all up for the deep freeze. It's work that cannot be postponed: it's work that's greatly satisfying as the deep freeze steadily fills up with bag after bag of lovely clean food. Our neighbours benefit too, of course, from all this bounty as we go out and do our rounds distributing the surplus from the garden.

I started harvesting beetroot and carrots at the beginning of the month – cooking and pickling the beetroot in cider vinegar; peeling, slicing and blanching the carrots for the deep freeze. But there is a major challenge ahead now to harvest the rest of the carrots and make a start on the (enormous) parsnips. There are a lot of beetroot still in the ground – partially chewed, I must admit, by our resident population of field voles. The plums and beans are all harvested now – so we just have a massive crop of apples to deal with – some varieties store much better than others.

The ground already cleared of the potato crop has been forked over and has already sprouted its inevitable crop of annual weeds. Some areas seem to have become afflicted by many deep rooted docks; where the seeds come from I do not know! Anyway I have forked out all the docks (however small) and scythed off the chickweed, groundsel, dead nettles and the rest. Fortunately we have very little creeping buttercup – it's a weed that really hates the rotavator. All this “clean” ground will be rotavated in the next couple of weeks where it will then lie fallow until after Christmas when we spread our compost again. The big compost heap (filled several times up to 9 feet high) has now composted right down to the level of the containing walls – how amazing to see the vigour of this process.

In the greenhouse the grapes have all been harvested. The new (and I hope much better vine) has grown a good strong four foot rod. The tomatoes are almost finished now – not really a very good crop – and I wonder whether it's really worth all the time spent pinching out over vigorous side shoots! I am amazed to find that the local blackbirds have learned how to get into the grrenhouse to eat the grapes – even through the smallest of open vents, doors or windows. I had to make a large netted frame to cover the open doors – and this worked well.

And, by the way, the super netted frames we made to protect the broccoli with the students has been a brilliant success – wonderful to see those fine plants looking so well. And I have not had to lift a finger to remove a single caterpillar! I think I will try planting peas in these enclosures next year – that should give the birds an impossible challenge – we shall see. The slugs have chewed a few holes in the broccoli but nothing serious.

Winter is coming!

October should see the garden all tidied up for the winter – crops harvested and stored, soil weeded and rotavated. Later there will be extensive pruning to be done and fruit trees to be wired and trained against the walls. The walnut trees have grown amazingly well this year but they must now be protected with tree guards against the winter activities of the deer.


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