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Winding down in the garden

It's Autumn in the garden. Time for fungi, rain and autumn harvest. The wonders of nature are manifest in this magnificent rainbow and the perfect symmetry of shaggy ink cap fungi.

My big job yesterday was dismantling the supports for the runner beans and processing the final harvest (just another 6 bags for the deep freeze). All the bean crops have been excellent this year. Unfortunately there is no escape from having to burn the tangled loom of string and vines so they join the sweet corn stalks and broken plum tree branches on the burning gatt – all waiting for dry weather to burn.

You can get some idea of the vigour and amazing size of the kalettes from the photo below

In the greenhouse we still have tomatoes and basil to harvest whilst the onions and squash harden off on the shelf.

The apples are wonderfully colourful on the espaliered trees against the south facing wall as we work ourselves up for a heavy session of cider making in a couple of weeks’ time.

You can see here the extra-ordinary growth of the thornless blackberry – each year it grows about 20 feet of new shoots which will be producing a good crop next July.

We have a few newcomers in the garden this year, and they are starting to be ready for harvest. The gigantic Kalette plants produce these delicious shoots, like miniature curly kale. The borlotti beans were not climbers as expected, but the small harvest will be enough for a couple of good meals and we will know better for next year.

From the Italian chicory family, we have planted Castelfranco for salad leaves, radicchio Veronese, radicchio Tardivo di Treviso and Puntarelle. The Veronese are starting to form beautiful purple heads, delicious in a salad or quickly roasted with a splash of red wine vinegar, and the puntarelle shoots are nearly ready to slice for a crunchy bitter salad.

The bitterness of these vegetables has unfortunately not been enough to deter the voracious mice who have no sweet tasting peas left to munch on, and have turned their attention to beetroots and these new leaves with gusto!

Today my big job is processing the heavy box of parsnips for the deep freeze – what a wonderful vegetable the parsnip is! We had to wait for the autumn rains before even considering the tough challenge of digging out these great roots. Of course my hands will be seriously stained brown when I finish about 2 hours work at the sink – peeling, slicing, blanching and bagging.

This is the time of year when all the

exhausted greenery ends up on the compost heap. Just how gardeners manage without decent compost bins I cannot imagine! You can see here the mature compost we will be emptying at Christmas and the new pile of greenery from this year.

It's also worth taking a look at the food waste compost bin which has now been out of use for about 6 months. Most of the vigorous life has come to an end except for the tough little feather mites which are still eating the feathers from a dead bird! The level has already dropped by about a foot since we stopped adding material – remember it will not be ready to empty for about another 5 years.

Finally the autumn harvest and clear out brings us back to finding time in the workshop while the rains pour down and I can get back to putting some new scythes together. I have sold the 12 scythes I made last winter and the interest in this great skill continues to grow. It does seem complete madness to use fossil fuels to cut grass and weeds when a scythe or push-mower can do the job equally well (or better in the case of management of wildflower meadows).

Now there's little left in the garden, the residents are having to explore a bit more!


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