October is such a busy time in my garden – harvesting, clearing, sowing, planting and getting everything ready for the winter months. Gardening plans have been hindered however by so much rain!
Just a few weeks ago here in Somerset we were a bit concerned about the lack of rainfall. The weather now is such a contrast with all of those blue, warm days. The temperatures are still mild thankfully (good for plant growth!) and when the sun does come out, it feels beautifully warm for the time of year.]

Warmth and rain is the perfect combination for weeds, too. I haven’t seen my allotment this week and just know that some will be germinating happily, as yet another downpour reduces the time I have gardening outside. It’s not that I am wimpy, I have good all weather gear, but many of the jobs I need to do – harvesting and planting in particular – are much easier when horizontal rain isn’t blowing into one’s eyes!

I am feeling very behind where I want to be in the garden, but there’s still time to get everything in and I hope to have all of the plantings completed by the end of next week, except for the broad beans which I mostly sow during November. High winds have knocked everything about a bit and with limited outdoor time, I’m having to ignore the tattier parts of the garden until everything else is done.

pears for dehydrating

There are advantages to the crazy weather – the combination of sunshine and heavy rain in the same sky has means gorgeous rainbows, such as this double one over Homeacres – the end of the rainbow is in the greenhouse!

Most days have not gone according to plan, to be perfectly honest. It feels as though every time I go outside the heavens open! Typically days when my work takes me away from home, the weather is often fine…. Looking on the bright side, I’ve made the most of being-stuck-indoors weather, preserving the harvest – canning, dehydrating and drying.

Dehydrated pears are wonderful. I’ll be adding some to my Christmas cake mixture.

There has been enough dry spells to clear the front garden beds and plant them out with peas (Douce Provence and Oscar), spring onions and Pak Choi – although I am a bit concerned how that will fare because slugs love them and it has been perfect slug weather. Lettuce and kale was planted here a couple of weeks ago. Both beds are covered with enviromesh for now against the sparrows, and will then be cloched for the winter for the same reason – I am blessed with a multitude of hungry little beaks!

The reason I didn’t cloche them right away was the wild wind that was blowing – stretching row covers over a cloche in the wind on one’s own isn’t the easiest of tasks, so I am waiting for a calmer day.

Front garden beds covered with enviromesh against the sparrows

This space is between the concrete “patio” and the polytunnel, where I have a border of young lavender bushes and the very productive pear tree that produced the fruit I’ve been drying. Its not the most perfect of beds, I also grow a few flowers for wildlife there including the foxgloves you can see in the photos next to the pear tree, but it is fine for garlic and shows that you really can make use of any space (more or less….) Obviously I am not planting right up against the pear tree trunk as that would be too dry.

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I bought garlic from Organic Plants (these are from there) and The Garlic Farm.

The rest of the garlic will go in the polytunnel and allotment next week.

I’ve managed to get all of the beans-for-drying harvest in, except for a variety called Lazy Housewife (not a very nice name, really) which is still growing beautifully, if lopsidedly due to high winds. The beans had suffered due to the weather and some have been rejected – if a bean looks a bit mouldy, compost it don’t try to store. I’ve podded the beans into plastic mushroom trays lined with tea towels – amazingly good for drying things, they are free (saves plastic in landfill) and stack beautifully.

I also have lovely circular bamboo drying dishes but these are not all that easy to come by in the UK – mine are from a local shop in my Dad’s village in Thailand.

Sacre Bleu bean

The most successful from a drying point of view have been the Sacre Bleu bean from Experimental Farm Network, which I grew in the polytunnel. Unsurprisingly really as they had snug dry accommodation during the deluges and almost all were able to dry on the plant before harvest, unlike many of the outdoor beans which i had to pick “green”. I came across this bean via a Facebook friend who I don’t know in “real life”, but we somehow became FB friends some years ago. This is the bean Lisa Bloodnick created herself! I imported it with some other seeds (legally of course, the fee from Customs makes these the most expensive beans I have ever bought!) These beans are going to be saved for growing outside next year. They are a very beautiful deep blue. That’s why I wanted to grow them. Sometimes it is good to grow something just for the colour.

Growing in the polytunnel was not without its problems though – the beans got red spider mite. Oh dear… Fortunately it didn’t spread very far and after de-leafing the whole plant (I put those in the Hotbin) and watering over and over again, I think I have disillusioned the spider mite. After de-leafing they all congregated on top of the bamboo bean poles! Happily the beans were well developed and have dried well.

Clearing summer crops and planting new transplants

I’ve been clearing plants and de-leafing the remaining tomatoes in the polytunnel, to prepare space for the next plantings. It looks very strange in there! The soil was quite dry so I’ve water a lot, but that’s it – no more mulch is added. The spring mulch will be fine for the winter crops too.

This is the tunnel after most of the plants have been cleared and whilst I was planting the transplants for winter and spring harvests, so there are trays dotted about. These have all been growing in the greenhouse.

I’ve planted a few rows of module sown Douce Provence peas – although these are fine outside I plant some undercover for an earlier crop.

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I’ve also planted different kales, spring onions, herbs and greens, for salads and cooking. It’s fine to plant these close to the tomatoes because I cut those at root level when it is time to remove them, so the new plantings won’t be disturbed.

The lettuce and other winter brassicas are almost ready to go in, a job for next week.

16 comments

    1. Thank you Melanie, so many of us are feeling “behind” I think, thanks to the crazy weather. Here’s hoping for some more settled weather next week.

  1. Going down the lottie today to continue tidying up!! Its soooooo wet here to in The New Forest- wellies it is!!

  2. Wow! feel for all of you in England, with all the rain. Today we have had, some snow and rain. I covered my spinach with downed leaves and its still surviving the cold, cold, nights. Average is about 22*F to 29*F. I have a question for you, Stephanie- How big is your poly tunnel? Height and length, that is. I was also wondering, how you plant, all that you put in it? Are areas prioritized for certain things? Very interested in your layout. You have such great results! I did purchase your cookbook. Just love it! Beautiful and colorful plates of food. Will definitely recommend your book. Thanks again for your posts. Always looking forward to the next one. 🙂

    1. Hi Wanda, it is 12 x 40 ft and I am not sure of the height – possibly 7ft. At this time of year I just plant where there is some space, as I gradually clear the summer crops: none of the winter veggies get especially tall, although I do try to put all of the taller brassicas in the middle bed. During the late spring, tall crops go in the middle and shorter ones on the two narrow side beds.

      There’ll be another blog update soon with more information about my planting now 🙂

      Thank you for the nice comments about my book – so glad you are enjoying it!

  3. Thanks for sharing, about your tunnel. Do you do more gardening in it, rather than outside? Do you think, things have been growing better inside there? Just wondering. This year has been very poor for a lot of gardens here, in the USA. A lot of our pollinators, are no longer in an abundance, lack of water, actually an awful lot of reasons for poor gardens. Loss of one full month of growing time. I’ve been considering a tunnel, or greenhouse for sometime. Thanks again for your sharing and thoughts! 🙂

    1. I grow different things there in the summer, heat loving plants – tomatoes, aubergines, melons etc – which do grow better in there than outside in the garden. In the winter the plants are more protected from the elements and those that are also grown outside, crop earlier in the tunnel.

      Sorry to hear about things where you are, sounds very worrying. Those dreadful pesticides are really having an effect on the pollinators 🙁

  4. Lovely and inspiring as usual Stephanie 😊 You give such good info too, which makes me braver in my garden, and as I’m only next door, county wise, it spurs me on with garden planting etc. I’ve only got a very small plot but I am trying to be a productive as possible following permaculture principles as best I can. Love your boots too, can I be cheeky and ask where they are from, please? ( I’m fed of losing and tripping up in my clogs! I end up doing for too much hopping around the garden….not a good look for 50ish year old 😳😊) xx

    1. Thank you so much, that is lovely to hear!

      The boots are from Muck Boots – they kindly sent me some to try out. I love the design, so jolly. So far I have worn them on wild beach walks in Wales including one that was 4 hours long and in the garden – so far, so good. They stay on the feet very well and I can fit 2 pairs of socks in them (I have a thing for warm feet!)

  5. Lovely blogs Stephanie I have poly tunnel envy currently everything in a 8×8 greenhouse needless to say I can’t move in there !! The outside has been painted & replanted as you say the slugs are having a feast in this weather frogs aren’t quite keeping up I have lost alot of kales this year & winter lettuce ☹️ blogs like yours keep us going thanks

    1. Thank you Mandy! Your greenhouse sounds like a wonderful place to be. In my next blog I’ll be sharing some grizzly updates about some of my allotment plants … in the next day or two

  6. Brilliant blog post – thanks for sharing. Even though you say you feel behind, things seem to be going well on the whole! Best of luck with the rest of the season. Your tunnel sounds great!

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