14 Oct 2018

Mid October: In the autumn veg patch




So often in the UK summer weather can disappear overnight and we're thrown straight into a precursor to winter. Not this year though. Mother Nature is letting us down so gently after an unbelievably hot and sultry summer. (Although today it's wet and windy so it would seem that the best of autumn might be behind us.)  The sun, when it shone, has been genuinely warm, perfect for letting the last of the summer crops ripen and very pleasant for working in the garden. I still have a few tomatoes slowly ripening in the veg patch and more in pots on my balcony, giving the occasional treat before I have to revert to buying them. It's the most perfect October  - so far! but I'm expecting a huge reality check in a couple of weeks when the clocks go back. Here's what I'm doing to make the most of autumn.

Winter salads:
With this late bout of warmth it's tempting to sow a few more seeds and I've got germinating trays of winter lettuces, coriander, chervil, spring onions and kale on the balcony. I bought coriander and basil from Johnson's new range of Micro Leaf seeds last week; the seeds are the same as in other herb packs but with double the quantities, or more. Both herbs have germinated impressively quickly. I'm growing the basil indoors as it's a tender herb and the coriander outside on the balcony as it doesn't mind cooler weather.  With shortening daylight hours, realistically these will mostly be eaten as micro leaves - and I'll keep sowing through the winter, bringing the trays indoors when it gets cold.

Sweet peas for summer:
Sweet peas have been sown - 2 to a cell - in deep root trainers; they're just starting to germinate a week later and the little plants will be perfectly fine on the balcony until they're planted out in spring. If/when they get leggy, just pinch the top back to 3 or 4 leaf pairs to create bushier plants. I've done this before and been picking the flowers at the beginning of June but that was during a mild winter, safe from the cruel winds and snow that we had last year. If the winter is harsh again, the seedlings will go into a friend's greenhouse under a layer of horticultural fleece.

Spring bulbs:
I bought all my bulbs a few weeks ago; they're currently stored in a big canvas tote bag under the table while I sort out where to plant them.  In the next fortnight, I want to plant out alliums, fritillaries, daffodils, anemones and ranunculus before the temperatures drop so that they have a chance to make some roots before winter. I'll probably put some in pots as well - some for the garden and some for the balcony.

Tulips are another matter. I'm replacing a lot of my bulbs this year as I last planted tulips under the fruit trees five years ago! I'm hoping for a sunny day when it's really cold at night, probably early to mid November, for this job in order to lessen the risk of tulip blight.  It's the same blight that will affect tomatoes and potatoes and can roll in on the wind after a humid summer. By planting later, frost will kill off blight spores although it's not as pleasant as planting on a warm autumnal day. And a good wash will sort out any blight spores lurking in pots.




In the veg patch ...
Baby Boo pumpkins have been harvested, the dried vines composted and tall purple sprouting broccoli staked against the wind. Asparagus fronds are so prolific that I've tied them together in a clump to control their swishiness.  The colour is just starting to fade in parts but I'll leave it another month before cutting the fronds down to allow the plants to harness as much energy as possible for next year.  The long nasturtium vines have been trimmed as they were becoming a tripping hazard, leaving a bank of the plants to climb up the surrounding fence. I even found several huge garlic bulbs growing under the leaves!  In past years my nasturtiums, all grown from dropped seed, have flowered in a range of colours from salmon, cream, striped yellow, deep orange and red. This year they're plain orange or plain yellow. Very odd. Maybe the seeds are gradually mutating! I've bought new seeds for next year and will try to remove as many dropped nasturtium seeds as possible this year.  Although that's probably a bit of wishful thinking on my part!

Herb flowers are now going to seed so I've cut them back; chive, salad burnet and sorrel will gradually disappear over winter but oregano and thyme will soldier on and be available all through the cold months to add flavour to casseroles and soup.

It's been a daily ritual to check the ripening quinces. Already a quince crumble has been made and eaten. I followed a Nigel Slater recipe; it was delicious but not as nice as plum or apricot crumble to be honest.  Perhaps some honey might have helped change my mind.  Some of the fruit had split so had to be used up quickly; the rest was left to ripen to gold on the tree.  Beautiful deep pink quince jelly has been made, recipe to follow.



Rosehips. While I had the jelly bag down off the high shelf for making quince jelly, it seemed a shame not to gather a few rosehips to make some syrup for winter. This rose, below, grows at one end of the veg patch gardens; I didn't plant it so can only guess at what it is, possibly a Rosa canina with white flowers. It's tucked in an awkward heavily shaded spot behind a large Viburnum so doesn't usually do much but seems to have responded to the glorious weather with hundreds of hips this year.  I had intended to leave the hips for birds but seeing the ground littered with so many fallen squashed fruits, decided to collect some for a more useful purpose.


So that just leaves the garlic and onion sets to plant out after I've moved all the self-seeded foxgloves, forget-me-nots, feverfew, honesty, verbena bonariensis, violets and strawberries. It never stops, does it?



14 comments:

  1. Very timely notes. Our only quince had to be uprooted because it was diseased. V disappointed as we had hoped to make Membrillo with the fruit which never arrived.

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    1. Oh gosh, what a shame about your quince tree! Do you know how it happened or what diseased it? Would be good to know! I'm just hoping now that someone will give you some of their excess fruit; membrillo is indeed very delicious!

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    2. Quince Leaf Blotch. It was already on the tree when we purchased it, but after overwintering it got worse not better. A year later we applied for and got a full refund. Will wait another year before planting a new tree.

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    3. Ah, thanks for that info, Mal. I've just looked up quince leaf blight so I know what to look out for. My tree is growing in an open area with good air flow (sometimes too good!!) between blocks of flats so I have to watch out for the other end of the year when the wind might blow all the blossom off!

      Good luck with your next tree and try to find a different spot for it - hopefully there won't be any fungus spores left in the soil from your first tree.

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  2. Interesting! The white squash is really interesting me. Now I'm trying grow nasturtium on pots, how should I do to keep them grow well. It's really new for me.

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    1. The white squash would be perfect for you, Endah, as it spreads or climbs and hooks onto things by itself so good for space saving. The fruits are not big but I've seen recipes where the seeds are scooped out and the pumpkins stuffed with onions, etc, then cooked whole. The plant is 'Cucurbita pepo' - perhaps you can find seeds with that botanical name?

      In northern climates, nasturtiums die off in cold frosty weather; I don't know whether they'd do that in Indonesia. Mine pop up from seeds dropped in the previous year, otherwise the seeds are just pushed into the soil, watered and left to grow. There are different types of nasturtium - some grow very long and can be tied up to grow upwards; other types are short nasturtiums, perfect for pots and baskets. The long nasturtiums can be cut back to a flower or leaf if the vines get too long and that will promote new leaf growth, which is the tastiest bit for salads!

      Let me know if you need more information! x

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    2. thanks for sharing me about growing nasturtium. I bought a pot of nasturtium, than I divided into three pots. they looks growing fairly healthy (in my opinion) but there's no sign of bloom.

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    3. It depends how long your nasturtiums have been growing for, Endah. In my food garden, the seedlings start to appear in April or May and will flower after a couple of months when there's lots of leaves on the plants but they only reach peak flower production in the late summer or autumn. The purpose of the flowers is for the plant to produce seed so there are lots of flowers as the daylight hours shorten.

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  3. We've had a few quince crumbles too. The tree has excelled this year.

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    1. What else do you make with your quinces, Sue? I'm thinking of trying some pickles next so I can eke out the crop over a few months.

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  4. It had been a fairly gentle slide into autumn here Caro until last Friday when we had a most horrible day of gales and heavy rain. There were one or two bedraggled and collapsed plants when I got to the allotment yesterday. It certainly sounds as if you are enjoying autumn. A friend dropped off some quinces yesterday so I must look out for that Nigel Slater crumble recipe. I have honey - our allotment bees produced a record number of jars this year :)

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    1. Typically, the weather changed here too, as soon as I'd posted this! There's some nice sunshine here today but it's getting chilly and I've already dug out my slippers for the evenings. Lucky you, having a gift of quinces! If you google 'Nigel Slater quince', lots of good ideas come up. He's a talented man. Oh, and btw, I didn't know you had allotment bees! Are they yours or a community beehive? How exciting!

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  5. This post had such a feel-good factor! I will now google how to turn my rose hips into something useful, I do wish I could give all my cooking apples to you! You are waaaay ahead of the game! Marvelous.xxx

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    1. Ah, brilliant - thanks, Dina! xx No need to search out a rosehip syrup recipe, I'm working on the post for that now. Yes, I do seem to be spending quite some time in the kitchen at the moment but I need to find time to get outside and garden properly! How lovely to have loads of cooking apples - some for storing and some for the freezer, apple pies, crumbles and chutney. What will you be doing with yours? Unless the pheasant doesn't get them first! xx

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