I’m back in the garden after a hectic time in the UK and – very appropriate for the autumn equinox on Sunday – there is a much greater sense of balance now. The searing heat has been replaced with a balmy warmth and several days of steady rain have filled the butts, dampened the earth and freshened everything up.
First job was to harvest the ‘Unwins Giant Exhibition’ onions, which I should have done before I left but ran out of time. They’ve got a bit damp in the rain but are now drying out nicely in an open barn.
We’ve had a bit of a sweet pepper explosion, both in the polytunnel and garden. These are vegetableseeds.net ‘Long Red Marconi’ and are definitely prolific croppers: I counted 19 fruits on this outdoor plant alone! The ‘red’ is a bit of a misnomer, though; the indoor peppers are turning colour then rotting straight away so we’re happy to eat them all green rather than lose the whole crop.
Just as good are the ‘Canta Charentais’ melons, also from vegetableseeds.net. The first one was just ripe enough to take back for Adrienne, which I thought was only fair as she looked after them so well earlier in the summer. They are quite small but very sweet and juicy with a pronounced aromatic flavour, a perfect breakfast treat. Definitely one to try again next year!
The courgettes have gone a little marrow-esque in our absence but the squashes have behaved themselves, and on close inspection seem to be very happy little ‘Sweet Dumplings’! 🙂
The rain has worked wonders for the greens I was worried about in the heat. The young salad leaves are thriving, we have a tasty mix of mesclun, mizuna, rainbow chard, wild rocket and the ever-reliable ‘Little Gem’ lettuces (so many of these, in fact, we’re eating them braised in butter and white wine as a hot veg –mmm!).
The brassicas, too, have perked up at long, long last – they really aren’t heatwave lovers and I’ve already got a shadier patch lined up for them next year. Ssshh, I don’t want to shout too loudly, but I think there might just be some baby ‘Evesham Special’ Brussels sprouts forming …
…and hearts in the red ‘Kalibos’ cabbages. Yippee!
The indoor cucumbers have run out of steam so I’ve harvested the last few and cleared the patch for planting with winter salad stuff in a while. The ‘Crystal Lemon’ was such a thug that I forgot there was a green ‘Akito’ in there, too. The ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ chillies continue to ripen well and there’s a little picking every day.
There is a sense now of the hot summer quietly slipping towards a gentle, mellow autumn. The trees and hedges are dripping with fruit and nuts, the jays are screeching in the acorns and the mornings sparkle with dewy cobwebs. The veg patch is full of beautiful peacock butterflies, literally clouds and clouds of them.
I feel a bit of a hypocrite picking white butterfly caterpillars off my brassicas without a second thought whilst leaving these handsome creatures in peace. They are Black Swallowtail caterpillars: their mum was too fluttery to photograph but these greedy things are very photogenic, happy to sit and munch away at the carrot leaves.
During my visit to Blighty, I couldn’t resist a quick spend in the local garden shop, mostly on spring bulbs for the flower garden and orchard but a few treats for the veg patch, too. I’ve bought some bulbs of ‘Germidour’ pink garlic to try for the first time, I’ll buy the French white stuff again as it was such a brilliant doer this year.
I’ve planted three rows of Japanese onions ‘Hi Keeper’ which theoretically will be ready late spring/early summer to bridge the gap between the stored onions and new maincrop. I’m worried about them rotting in the ground if it’s as wet this winter as last but we’ll see. The lamb’s lettuce is for the polytunnel as a winter salad leaf. I pulled out the finished pea plants to clear a patch next to the kale for the ‘Pixie’ spring cabbages, which I’ve sown direct. I’ll transplant a few to heart up into little pointy cabbages, the rest we’ll pick as spring greens.
Finally, proof – if any should be needed – that vegetables aren’t just for the kitchen table. Take a look at the bridal bouquet our daughter Sarah made to carry on her wedding day: almost everything came out of her garden, hedgerows and veg patch.
The veg and herbs were utter stars: sage and marjoram for scent as well as colour, ‘Fizz’ kale with its pretty frilly leaves, vibrant ruby chard complete with bobbly flowers and (my favourite) the unusual Japanese walking onions with their spiky heads that grow so well in her garden. It was truly stunning, truly unique. So what might such a creative gardening bride give as wedding favours? Little handmade packets of homegrown seeds, encouraging her guests to sow and grow in celebration of her marriage with Gwyndaf. Now obviously I’m extremely biased, but that’s what I call a wedding! 🙂