Gardening is a cycle of waiting and planning in the winter, sowing and nurturing in the spring, planting and reaping rewards in the summer and then tidying up, making preserves and looking back at your good work in the autumn. Right now, it’s about time for that autumn reflection; thinking about the old, the now and potentially, what’s new.
It’s hard for a gardener to realise that the old means all the hard work put in during the spring and the summer; it means the first signs of life from your seeds, nurturing seedlings, watering them and feeding them. It means digging out your patch, fertilising it and planting your first flowers and veg. It means watching your crops grow, keeping an eye on the weat her forecast for rain or sunshine, putting on the sprinklers, if required, weeding your beds, mowing your lawn; making everything beautiful.
And most of all, for me, it means harvesting your crops; potatoes like nectar, enormous summer squashes, ravishing radishes, scrumptious sugar snaps, unrelenting courgettes, stunning beetroot… you can probably tell that I could go on! In so many ways, I miss the summer now that autumn has begun to strike and my once thriving plants begin to droop and brown. However, in other ways, it’s not the end and, with a little preparation, autumn can be almost as plentiful, bringing with it many joys and delectations.
Let’s not forget that September is a transitional time of year and it is quite often a time for most of your cropping. For example, I have never grown so many luscious, juicy and varied tomatoes.
From plum to cherries, beef to more regular gardener’s delight, we have cropped, boiled, stewed, baked, made chutneys and eaten raw but still have kilos of them left. I’ve even passed bags of them on to neighbours, friends and colleagues and we’re still picking the final red gems. Soon it will be time to dispose of the plants but it makes me more determined to do the same next year but maybe even better. Also still giving us great joy are our dahlias.
They really are a special gift of colour at the end of the summer and will keep going until the first frosts, as are the gorgeous cosmos and the last sunflowers.
Along with these two stalwarts of our garden, we have runner beans and climbing beans still going strong, peppers just about turning colour, an abundance of red and purple chillies and the last of the courgettes still hanging on for dear life!
Now, some of these have taken a while to put into action. Parsnips, for instance, are sown in April/May and will only become sweet and large enough by November/ December time when they’ve tasted the frost (as do brussel sprouts, which failed miserably for us… perhaps because I can’t stand them!).
Our swedes (sown in August) are showing good signs of life and should be ready in a month or so and we’ve just sampled our first turnip (also sown in August), which was delicious in a stir fry.
They’ll all be great additions to hearty stews in the future. As well as these, we’ve got curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli on the go, which will last through the winter and some super looking pumpkins, like the turk’s turban below.
I’m also about to sow a batch of mixed radishes (they tend to do best at the beginning or end of the season) and a variety of different salad leaves, including rocket and mizuna. As for flowers, now is the winter pansy and viola season. They should be able to stand the cold weather and give you a snippet of colour to see you through the winter. Now is also a perfect time for planting bulbs to give you late winter/ early spring colour. I think it’s essential to plant daffodils and snowdrops to give you a signal that spring is just around the corner when hope seems to be fading in late January/ February… and that’s when the great cycle of growing can start again.
Gardening is a very healthy past time. It gets you out in the fresh air and works all of your muscles. Autumn can be a great catalyst to get you out in your ‘natural gym’ because most of the heavy work needs to be done now. For example, once your summer plants have died away, clearing the ground, digging it over and adding compost will allow your soil to recover and replenish nutrients; making it ready for next year’s exertions.
There’s also raking, pruning and tidying to do. I’ve put together a fun little video on my Facebook page to try to encourage people to get out into their gardens so please do have a watch of it here. Get out in your garden, build your fitness and, most importantly, enjoy it and ‘Have-A-Go!’
Featured picture from @aussie_mum_and_dad_of_4
My name's Keith Hatton and for the last few years I've been calling myself 'The Have A Go Gardener'. That's because I love my little patch of paradise and I'll try to grow anything, especially if it's edible! From strawberries in wellies, potatoes in bags and lettuce in guttering, I like to up-cycle what I can, encourage wildlife into our garden and pretty much love everything to do with my garden. I also write blogs, film any whacky ideas and (if you're close to Cambridge) I even like to help out in other peoples' gardens. Here to inspire and get people outside- why don'y you 'have a go?'
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