36 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd

I was sorting through the seed packets yesterday morning. After weeding out anything stating “sow by September” – all sown now – the remnants were pretty thin: a  few chicories, some obscure salad greens and a couple of collard-type brassicas… The small window of the False Spring is closing. And everything swift enough is on its marks, ready to make the finish line before the gloom and doom of November. Although forced on us by a scorched summer, it’s been a real pleasure discovering this opportunity, this chink of light in the impending dark. 

The endives and quasi-endive lettuces are quivering improbably on the field, little flickers of coloured light in the early-setting sun. The brassica battallions have been divided into things big enough to repel the autumnal onslaught and the pretty Oriental things which have been billetted in the polytunnel. I’ve spent many a happy evening in there recently, eking out drills for another row of rocket in the dwindling light, the dusktime mutterings of the animals all around me.

One of the many benefits of this project has been to force me to focus on these marginal times. I would have neglected them for sure in the normal course of things. Even now, any normal summer – that is, with some rain in it – would probably obviate this last minute charge. But I’d like to think that, in future, I’d do it anyway: maximise what the land can give you, I say… Necessity is definitely the mother of invention and that spirit is deeply ingrained in the peasant-kitchen gardener!

Talking of which, please meet the Hardening off Trolley (Patent Pending):

Left here by the previous owners – original function unknown – Emma has given the old thing a lick of paint and hoped for a fine floral display to put on top of it. Instead, I’ve now discovered that I can fit a lot of things on it which need hardening off. I can wheel them all under cover at night. Saves on carrying separate trays and pots around, hitherto a scandalously neglected task around here. And it presents a moving target for the slugs to hit! 

Soon the focus will be on things pre-fixed “over-wintering”: beans, peas, onions, garlic, shallots. This will mark the first full lap for this blog. I’m pretty sure I was thinking about which beds to prepare for my beans this time last year. In some ways that knowledge is the highlight of a fine week.