Having spent several days decorating indoors, it was good to get back out into the garden and blow the cobwebs, paint fumes and plaster dust away. The polytunnel first. The little rows of winter salad – lamb’s lettuce, rocket, oriental leaves and ‘Winter Density’ lettuce – are coming along nicely if slowly. I transplanted a few more of the lettuce from outside to save having to mess about with a cloche. There is no sign of flea beetle, caterpillar or slug damage in the tunnel so at long last we can enjoy some un-nibbled leaves.
Fancying a green salad as a change from starchy winter veg, I was surprised at just how much I managed to find to go with the indoor leaves: the remnants of a mesclun row (endive and radicchio just seem to keep going), more rocket, baby rainbow chard, coriander, chervil… not the huge quantities we had in summer, but a pretty decent bowl all the same.
We ate the very last sweet pepper in the salad, too. I only grew ‘Long Red Marconi’ from vegetableseeds.net this year and they have been brilliant, fruiting heavily indoors and outside. In fact, we’ve been eating them for over five months now, so they are definitely top of my planting list for next year. We still have a potted plant on a sunny windowsill which has two small fruits on it, you just can’t stop these things from growing!
Something I am planning to stop if I so much as get a whiff of it next year is this invasive weed called dodder. I have to confess I’d never seen or heard of it before so thank goodness for the internet. It’s totally parasitic, attaching itself to another plant straight after germination, winding bright orange stems around the host plant, then producing bobbles of colourless flowers. It spreads like stink, I swear it grows several metres in a day. Apparently, it’s usually a heathland plant that favours heather and gorse, so quite what it’s doing in the polytunnel targetting the peppers, I have no idea. All I can say is that next year, it’s WAR.
With the last few pepper plants (and dodder) removed, I dug over the tunnel, gave it a good soaking with rainwater (it’s unbelievably dry in there) and spread a generous layer of well-rotted manure everywhere. It looks so empty after the summer jungle but time for it to rest a bit now while the worms go to work on that muck.
It all seems very ‘quiet’ outside, too, with the winter crops ticking over. I’m keeping my eye on the celeriac, this is the only plant out of 16 to survive the summer but it looks like it’s developing quite a bottom (if you’ll excuse the expression) so fingers crossed we might at least get one.
I was thrilled to see the broad beans bravely poking their little heads up, too; good to think that even in the dark days of December, there’s a tender promise of summer…
Over the last few days, our chestnut and walnut trees have decided to dump their leaves all over the orchard so I’ve been collecting them in barrowloads to make leaf mould.
This turned out to be one of those knock-on jobs that turned into a massive overhaul of Compost Corner, which it’s fair to say, was long overdue. I emptied the muck pile to make room for the leaves – no mesh container or black bags, it’s a very sheltered position so the wind should leave them alone. I covered the second compost heap with a thick layer of straw and started a new one on a ‘brown’ base of twigs, straw and leaves. The first heap, under old carpet, has turned into some lovely crumbly stuff so despite my very chaotic approach, nature is obviously doing the business.
Apart from the inevitable Christmas glitz and tat in the shops, it’s hard to believe that it really is December here at the moment. The weather is dry and bright, not too cold, and the trees and hedges are hanging onto their leaves so the autumn colours are beautiful. I promise not to turn this into a spinning/knitting blog, but I couldn’t help but take inspiration for my latest project whilst wandering about our patch.
Now I find myself rummaging through my seed collection and musing about all the wonderful colours to come in the veg patch next year: fresh green of new peas, creamy yellow of squashes, vibrant purple of beetroot, spicy red of radish… how shall I resist? Oh well, enough daydreaming – time to get back to the painting, I suppose. 🙂