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  • Writer's pictureSofias Country Gardens

Kitchen garden in autumn

After three weeks of rain we finally got some sunshine and dry weather - for about a week! Some autumns are like this, that the rain starts early and continues relentlessly all the way until Christmas, and there is nothing to do about it. Philosophically I think that at least it means the ground water tables will fill up and we won't have draught in the groundwater for spring. But I must admit, I do enjoy autumn sunshine so much more and really relish in doing the necessary garden preparations for winter when we have fine weather.

By now the marigolds have more or less gone to seed so after saving a big bag of seeds for next spring I unceremoniously dump the plants onto the compost heap. I do leave a few plants here and there if they have enough buds to provide nectar for the insects in the coming weeks, but the bulk of them I take away. They have already self seeded profusely and if we have a mild winter like last year many of these seeds will come up next spring, but the plants them selves left in ground just turn into soggy heaps to be clear away after winter.

Next up is tidying the sorry mess left by my gorgeous Blauhilde beans. Note to self for next year: do not plant as many beans as you think you need and do plant them with a really sturdy support! This year I was short on bamboo canes at planting time so I used a low netting and string. Not a good idea! As the rains came the vigorous plants became so heavy that the whole structure fell down. Added to this, the twining climbing habit of the beans meant that I needed to cut the decaying stalks off the structure once they were spent, and so clearing it all up took twice the time it usually does. Happily my Godfather Ente was on hand to help harvest the last of the beans, and not only that but he and Frans kindly took them home to Portvakten (the Gatekeepers Cottage) and prepared all the last beans for the freezer too.

As I have complained earlier in the season my cauliflowers were attacked firstly by little moths and then by cabbage white butterfly larvae (Pieris rapae) to such an extent that I hardly got any harvest at all. Now I would consider myself a generous person, but sharing it all with them was a bit too much! I did however get a few small and one beautiful and almost perfect large head of Di Sicilia Violetta cauliflower. After the harvest it didn't take more than two weeks for the brassicas to be COMPLETELY decimated with only skeleton stalks left in the bed. I had thought my ducks Lazarus and Goliath would have helped keep the pesky larvae away by eating them, but no. The ducks think that they are kept for their excellent conversation and beauty alone, and so any real work is way beneath their dignity.

By the end of the week, all beds were cleared. I do love having it all done by now as I'm sure the rains will return, hindering me from work, and it is so much more satisfying than leaving debris from last season over winter and fixing it in spring. Doing the work on dry days means I don't need to walk on the soil while it is wet, as that would compact it and destroy the soil structure unnecessarily. It also means that I can get the benefits of the deep winter frost splitting and rupturing the soil as it makes it more easily worked in spring. Boomer likes it too, as it provides him with a lovely warm spot to keep an eye on me working.

In the end only beetroots, carrots, dill crowns and a few brassicas are left for the end of the month. By October we will have night frost that go deep in the soil, so until then we can continue with late harvest.

Back at home Luna takes a keen interest in my doings. In the evening I harvested some carrots for dinner, and the little lot of garlic I had sown in spring together with a whole load dill seeds to dry. I love using dill seeds in fish soup in winter as the taste is something akin to fennel seeds although much milder.

This year I have really gotten into harvesting my own spices and it is sort of the perfect autumn thing to do - there are plenty of dusky evening hours to watch them dry while listening to music or reading a book! Happy autumn week to you all!

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