It seems that normal service has resumed in the weather department. Summer gave us (or some of us) one last blast of heat, bringing out the flowers and ripening the fruit, and then some were treated to a finale of fireworks in the sky and clashes of thunder, before handing the baton over to Autumn. Summer’s very own closing ceremony.
So for now we’re back to the sort of temperatures us Brits are more used to, with side helpings of wind and drizzle. Lovely. I like autumn, it better suits my clothes.
Down on the allotment, we have managed to tick off most of the Autumn to-do list from my previous post, with the exception of harvesting carrots and sweet potatoes. I don’t know exactly when to harvest the sweet potatoes having not grown them before, but I’m tempted to leave them while the tops are still looking green and lush (see photo below).
I’ll take the plunge with my fork at some point. The main crop potatoes have been a disappointment this year. They caught blight very early on, so we chopped the tops back, but left them in the ground while we were still harvesting the second earlies. When we finally got around to harvesting them, they’d been attacked quite badly. Around 60% were damaged to the point of being good only for the compost heap. With the effort involved in planting, weeding, earthing up and harvesting potatoes, to get only 40% back is a bit frustrating.
I’m now debating for next year: blight resistant ‘Sarpo’s / only growing earlies or 2nd earlies / sticking with the sweet potatoes, no blight problems there. Some people swear by spraying their potatoes before the blight has a chance to hit, but I prefer my spuds chemical free, bar a little sodium chloride.
The mustard has been chopped back to the ground, but rather than digging it in, we have emptied out 2 of our compost bins and spread the contents out over the beds (a work in progress shot above). The hope is that over the winter months, the earthworms will do the digging in for us, and the compost will add extra (much needed) nutrients. If there’s an easier way to do something I’m all for it, so I’ve been reading and watching videos online on the no-dig method, championed by Charles Dowding. Search for him on You Tube if you’re interested. The basic theory is that by digging over soil, you damage the finely balanced Eco system within the soil, as well as bringing up weed seeds, and so instead you should keep layering up your beds with compost and manure without turning it in, allowing the worms and other micro organisms to do their thing. The only problem for me with a full 10 pole plot, is that I never have enough compost or manure to be able to effectively layer up thick enough. So I’m going to trial it on 2 or 3 beds and see how it goes. I also don’t quite know how he gets his potatoes out of the ground without digging!
Another job completed is the digging and filling of a compost trench. This has become a regular Autumn job for us. There is so much to compost at this time of year (rhubarb leaves, sweetcorn stems, potato tops, overgrown marrows), but rather than adding it to a bin, we dump it all into a trench, chop it with a spade, trample it down and cover it back over with soil (to keep the rats out) and basically keep adding to it over the Autumn months. It then rots down over the winter, and come Spring you have a lovely rich area, perfect for hungry beans or sweetpeas to be planted into. Yes there’s work involved in digging the trench (luckily I have a man for that) but equally it saves a lot of trouble emptying out the compost bins.
I dug an astonishing amount of bindweed from what is meant to be the cutting patch. The cosmos I sowed in Spring germinated, and then promptly died for some odd reason, and I had slug issues with my dahlias, all of which meant the cutting patch remained empty apart from the Sweet Williams. After they died back in early summer, the bed got horribly neglected, allowing the bindweed to take it over. The only positive side of this, is the bed became a safe haven for a family of frogs. I only discovered this while tackling the bindweed. One of the adults surprised me first, and then about 5 or 6 of the tiniest little frogs. I wish I’d managed to get a photo of one. I had to be a little more careful with the fork thereafter, but finally I managed to dig it all through. I’d like to say I got all of the bindweed out, but I know that’s too much to hope for. I’ve at least improved it enough to plant a few rows of daffodil bulbs. And I’m also thinking of sowing some cornflowers in between the rows.
Okay, I think I’ve rambled enough. I’ll leave you with a picture of the top section showing my purple Brussels sprouts growing handsomely in the foreground and updated pages from my journal. Happy Autumn.