How it must look to my neighbours is anybody’s guess. On weekday evenings I can frequently be found out in the garden in complete darkness, fumbling about with a flashlight to pick leaves to go with dinner. But that’s just the way things are with the short hours of daylight at this time of year.
And despite the darkness, lower temperatures, rain and mist, there’s still lots going on in vegetable growing terms. All the rain soaking into the borders is filling out the few bunches of grapes that have come through this year.
I mistimed pruning the vines earlier in the year and so this has been a poor year for grapes, so I’ll leave what’s there for the birds, who particularly love the purple ones. The neighbourhood robin is especially partial to them.
Just nearby the green manure mix I sowed a few weeks ago has established itself very well in one of the beds. That’ll really help condition the soil for next season.
The other half of the bed has garlic and onion sets in it. The ‘Marco’ garlic has come through first. The green shoots mean it’s established its early roots under the soil and should survive the winter well. There’s no sign yet of the ‘Germidour’, which I’m keen to see grow because it’s reusing cloves which I grew earlier this year. It’ll appear soon I’m sure.
In another bed, the broccoli raab has gone crazy: leafy, vigorous and healthy, it can go in all sorts of meals, wilting the leaves like spinach or steaming the spears like traditional broccoli. Those spears have a habit of flowering though, in which case I tend to cut and discard the heads and just eat the leaves, which are very nutritious.
Under cover in the greenhouse tents the chilli and pepper plants are having their final flourish, with nice fruit still maturing to red. The chillis are noticeably less fiery than they were at the peak of summer. I expect it’s the sun and heat that trigger the full production of capsaicin in each fruit.
Next to them there’s an aubergine plant still doing well. The purple-black colour is so attractive. And a little pot of marigolds is still doing OK and attracting the small number of bees which are still about, surprisingly.
Not far away the lemon plant seems to have its own interpretation of the growing season, with several green fruits growing well. It’s only this year that I’ve really known and put into practice the techniques for looking after a citrus plant: top dressing with good compost, including special citrus feed in the water and so on.
These have definitely made a difference compared with previous years, when most flowers and tiny fruits would fall off with the slightest touch or breeze. This year I think I just started to help the plant a bit later than I should have, so it’s fruiting a bit too late for the lemons to mature. Still, it’ll be going under cover in a mini greenhouse soon so it’ll benefit from being out of the coldest temperatures.
This weekend I cut down about ten tomato plants. Faced with a big bowl of tomatoes, a mix of green, red and purple, I opted to oven-dry them. After many hours at a low temperature they dried out pretty well, if a little overdone. And interestingly the tartness of unripe green tomatoes really does mellow when they’re heat dried.
The thing now is how best to store them. Options range from an air-tight jar to vinegar-dipping and storing in oil. I know the botulism risk factor with the oil storing method and it’d be unwise to ignore that, so perhaps the best thing all round is just to eat them all as quickly as possible! Which is a nice problem to have 😉