It’s that time of year again, many crops have yielded their bounty and are beginning to fade. Vegetable beds need to be cleared out for winter, seeds need to be gathered, annuals need to be composted and perennials need to be tidied up. It is still too early to cut back larger deciduous trees and shrubs, but there is a lot to be done to prepare the garden for the dark days and frosty nights.
This weekend I have cleared out my runner beans. They have cropped amazingly this year, we have had beans with every meal for months. Now only a few coarse pods are left and it’s time to take them out. The ‘Early Onward’ peas are also at an end. I did sow a late crop just to see how they would perform, they have blossom now but it may be too late from them to produce pods. The last of the potatoes are dug, I have left them in the ground as they hold better than if I dig them all up together, but I need to get them out now before the slugs attack them. I only sow early potatoes to avoid blight, so these potatoes will need to be eaten as they are not suitable for storage. It is wonderful to have the great taste of new potatoes up to October.
The courgettes are still producing, but fruits are smaller now. We had a night of frost during the week, I covered them with fleece and they survived, but it’s now only a matter of time until they succumb. The tomatoes are still struggling on, there has been enough sun between the showers to ripen them, but they do not have ‘sun-kissed’ taste that they achieve some summers.
I have mulched the rhubarb with home-made compost to give it protection and enrichment over the cold spell. I now grow rhubarb in two large bins as it was too vigorous in the ground and it swamped all around it. It seems happy as it has great depth of soil and it provides plenty of rhubarb for eating. Next job is to tidy up the strawberries. The older plants need to have their withered leaves removed and new runners need to be separated from parent plants. This year I have made a new strawberry bed, so I am discarding many of the older plants as they deteriorate after their third season.
Into the space left by the potatoes I have planted out chard and beetroot plants that have been grown from seed. They should survive until the new year. I have planted garlic and some red onions too. The rest of the vegetable beds will lie dormant for the winter. Instead of planting green manure I usually give the empty spaces a generous layer of home-made compost and cover them with cardboard (begged from the supermarket). A thin layer of clay over the cardboard will keep it in place and it will rot down over the winter.