34 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd

Off we go again! A (very watery) watershed has been crossed and a new gardening year has begun.

I can state this with confidence because just about everything that can be sown now will crop in 2011. Indeed, a few good pieces should be placed decisively into next year’s cropping jigsaw around now.

Firstly, there’s the green things to get in for January’s thin pickings from the polytunnel. There’s also the cauliflowers (and some other less interesting brassicas) to sow and hold indoors until they go out in February.  As you can probably detect, the recent deluge has inspired an unusual bang-up-to-dateness in the greenshed: it’s been so monsoon-like that I’ve even got half of my sweet peas sown. I even cleared out the toolshed! But the number of rainy day jobs dried up very quickly. 

Conversely, progress in the field got rapidly mired down.The rain went from absurd to merely soaking yesterday, so I finally transplanted a load of chinese cabbages and kales.  I could almost hear the slugs sniggering… But getting that job out of the way means the renovation of lots of beds for the direct sowings can proceed – those piles of broad beans and peas and garlic waiting to go in the ground are always on my mind…. Accordingly, there are yards and yards of manured soil to tackle, all of which have sprouted an interesting range of meadow weeds!

I’m also earmarking which additional areas to bring into production next year. Having animals happily doing the hard work all summer means there’s plenty of new soil to go at. I identified fairly early in our relationship the benefits of pigs as rotovators and this tribute has been paid regularly since. Their only deficiencies in this regard are their tendency to fertilise their outdoor areas in just one place and, after the recent rain, the finely sorted tilth they’d kindly created has already turned into a gloop into which big pig sinks up to the gunnels.

Even worse, there exists a challenger to her gardening crown and it comes in the hungry, noisy and low IQ-ed form of a gaggle of geese. With the goslings approaching maturity this large goose family demolishes voraciously any turf that comes their way. Every couple of days now I’m obliged to shuffle their electric enclosure across the top of the field to encompass a bit of pastures new and to lay down a bit of plastic mulch to preserve their bare and well-manured wake.

All in all a busy month in prospect. But it means the various calamities and wall-to-wall shortcomings of last season can be put down to experience and generally filed and forgotten. The toil resumes and represents a (slightly sweaty) offering to the future. Which, all things considered, must mean gardeners are the most rain-soaked and stubbornly optimistic of beings…

This time last year…