Whoosh! That was October… didn’t that fly by? And here we are in early November, the first frosts making the garden sparkle in early morning sunlight, turning frost tender plants such as nasturtiums to mush. It has been raining an awful lot too!
Apologies to those who received an email notification of an October blog post. That was an error caused somehow by behind the scenes website work triggering a newsletter which linked to a draft blog post. This is the update of that post, which wasn’t finished because my internet went crazy and I couldn’t upload photos… all repaired now.
October was a very busy month in the garden – harvesting, preserving, storing, clearing and planting – which might explain how it was October 1st one minute and Halloween the next. I’ve also been sorting my stash of firewood which is now in the polytunnel (to keep dry, it has been raining a lot) so that I can cut it up for the woodburner. It is lovely lighting the fire and some candles in the evening, making the house all cosy.
First some happy news. I was delighted to hear that No Dig Home has been shortlisted for Blog or Vlog of the Year at the Garden Media Guild Awards, alongside four other blogs and vlogs!! The awards ceremony is being held via Zoom on November 26th, when we’ll find out who is the winner. I’m thrilled to be shortlisted, along with such a lovely group of talented writers and vloggers. Usually the awards are held at the Savoy in London, a fantastic social event, especially for writers like myself who spend a lot of time working on their own. Of course that’s not possible this year, so I am looking forward to participating virtually. I wonder what it will be like? Going to be a bit strange “attending” on my own, due to lockdown restrictions, but I am sure it’ll still be fun.
In 2017 my first book, co-written with Charles Dowding, won Practical Gardening Book of the Year at the awards. This year Charles has been shortlisted for Social Media Influencer of the Year and his latest book for Practical Gardening Book.
Meanwhile it has been all go in the garden, and freshly harvested homegrown produce features in every meal. Squash and beans for drying are harvested for storing, but many of the veg at home and the allotment can remain in the ground and harvested as needed. The radicchios need to be cropped before the weather turns very cold – they’ll store for months in a cool place – but leeks, beetroot and brassicas can remain in the ground all winter.
After ‘curing’ on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks, I store the squash on top of book cases in my living room, where there’ll keep until April or even May next year. Once fully dry, so that they are hard to the touch and rustle when poured through my fingers, the beans store beautifully in glass jars. I’m making salsa with the tomatillo!
Below are de Colgar tomatoes, a variety which stores for a very long time on the tomato vine. These are damaged so I’m ripening them on a windowsill instead. Usually I would store them hanging in bunches, where they will keep for months.
Garden jobs now are mostly clearing, harvesting and pruning. There’s still time to plant broad beans and garlic, but that’s about it now for sowing (except for some microleaves and pea shoots indoors) until mid-February. I’m cutting back the summer fruiting raspberries, removing the canes which fruited this year and leaving the others which will produce the fruit next year. Then I’ll mulch with some of my lovely “dalek” compost heap compost. I don’t turn the daleks: the compost takes longer but as I have eight daleks in my garden, that’s ok! I added the top bit of the heap, with some uncomposted materials and loads of woodlice, to another compost heap that isn’t ready yet.
Sara Venn and Rob Smith started #GardenLockdownJobs a few days ago, and I am participating on Instagram and Twitter every day – except today because Rob and I had the same idea!! And by the time I realised this, it was pouring down here, so my next one will be tomorrow. All of my posts also go to my Facebook business page – Stephanie Hafferty. Do follow us if you use one of these social media sites.
I’m also making the final cut of comfrey for the year, laying it under fruit bushes as a mulch.
In the polytunnel, recent cold weather is causing the sweet potatoes to die back, this photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, and I will be harvesting them this week.
I let the luffas mature on the plant so that the skin changed colour to yellowy-brown, and discovered that this made the skin really easy to peel off, revealing the luffa inside. These are drying and I look forward to using them. I’ve saved the seeds and will find out whether they can be used next year, or if they are likely to have cross pollinated – first year of growing actual luffas (last year the plants were eaten) so I am not sure.
Other seed saving includes a lot of tomatoes (here they are fermenting before spreading on kitchen paper to dry), marigolds, sunflowers and cinnamon vine.
There are far too many sunflower seeds for my needs, so I am sharing these with the birds and other wild things.
My small potted medlar tree has produced the biggest harvest yet. The medlars are now in the kitchen in a large bowl “bletting”, a maturing/rotting process which makes the fruit sweet and ready for use. I make medlar jelly. When I do, I’ll post the recipe here. The bletting usually takes 3 weeks or so.
The medlar’s wooden pot is falling apart, so a job over the next few weeks is to carefully re-home it in a different container. I’ll give it a prune first.
This is the view from my bedroom window after some torrential rain – you can see the concrete areas wetly shining. It’s not a “pretty” view, but it is a real one! It’s a long narrow garden with a housing estate behind, where I produce a lot of food year round. Next door, my neighbours don’t grow during the winter (they are elderly) but from spring onwards the garden is full of veg and flowers.
At the allotment, I am so happy with the health of the brassicas. They are still under netting, firmly pegged down, to protect them from deer and birds. The Perennial Nine Star Broccoli isn’t covered and you can see butterfly damage from the summer. It bounces back. It’s growing in a mostly perennial bed and there’s still oca, yacon and Jerusalem artichokes to harvest.
Young Florence fennel plants should continue to grow for the next few months, weather permitting (an extended period of deep cold will kill them off). An allotment job this month is to remove the environmesh and re-cover this bed with fleece.
My regular monthly feature is in the latest edition of Kitchen Garden Magazine and I am now working on next year’s features. They’ll be something a bit different, and I look forward to sharing it with you when January 2021 mag is published.