Compost and colour

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 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. 🙂



8 thoughts on “Compost and colour

  1. All looking very nice I’ve. Just dug over my polytunnel for the first time,I’ve normally grown veg in pots in the greenhouse and tunnel. Next year I’m trying to grow direct in the soil and see how that grows,I keep saying I need to grow over winter but never get around to it. I’ve just picked up a second hand bath which is going to be out in the tunnel,that way the water will not be cold and shock the plants when we water them.


    • We’ve always grown direct in the soil with no problems, it’s just a case of keeping it well-fed and watered. Go for winter growing, it’s well worth a try. It never failed to amaze me how much salad stuff we picked over winter when our tunnel was perched on a windswept Welsh hillside, so hopefully it will be even better in a kinder climate. The bath is a great idea, I wish we could lay our hands on something similar out here as water butts cost a fortune!


      • I did see the bath outside someone’s house so decided to knock on the door,it would of gone to the local tip if I hadn’t took it so saved the planet. We have barrels and bins dotted around the plot full of water,just none in the greenhouse or tunnel,will have to sort something out for the greenhouse next.


      • Well, I think saving the planet is pretty important so well done you! I’ll have to keep an eye out when I’m cycling round. I do check the local dump regularly in case there’s something there we could scrounge, otherwise we’ll just have to keep on with the barrels and old paint buckets for now…


  2. We have in our smaller greenhouse a big black plastic barrel (with lid) that we keep full of water; it gets nicely warm – almost hot – on sunny days, good for watering and it keeps the night temperatures tolerable already in the late spring. We have several barrels – got them cheap on recycling principle – they were used for grape juice importing…

    We have had dodder for two years now in our sweet marjoram patch; as we changed the place of the patch we can only deduct that the seeds have come with the marjoram seeds; it doesn’t grow naturally in these parts.

    I could use that yarn for a dragon that I need to knit on a pullover…


    • I must admit I did wonder initially if the dodder seed had come from a bag of dodgy compost, but as it didn’t germinate until the peppers went in the ground it’s probably unlikely. I haven’t seen it anywhere else though, so I’m not sure what to think. I certainly don’t want it rampaging through the polytunnel again, it was worse than the cucumbers…


  3. You might not have noticed it earlier – though the seeds can germinate without a host plant they die if they don’t find a plant within days of the germination. – In a way it was lucky for us they were with the marjoram – I cut the plants back and burned the cuttings; the second crop had much less dodder. You hardly can do that with peppers…


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