I’m calling it. Before the frost catches me out.
We’ve been fortunate to get this far into October without a frost but the rain has battered the plots. The petals and foliage have been hammered and look less than victorious after the storm. It is the end of the flower farming season proper. There are still many flowers and more to come but harvest are much smaller. The abundance of September has waned and it's small gatherings of treasures from now on in until late March.
But you’ll know that I love the seasons and the slow turn of the year. The cherry trees are magnificent in oranges, pinks and reds framing the dahlia beds. The autumn light is glorious and glistens on the raindrops like crystals off spiders webs between decaying plants. It is my favourite time of year, cool to garden for hours. It no longer feels like a race against the clock or my stamina!
I’ve already cleared many of the beds and sown green manures (so far mustard and phacelia have taken the most readily). The summer sown biennials of sweet rocket, sweet williams, foxgloves and wallflowers for spring flowers are in position, swelling green growth and settled in the winter salads in place of the summer crops.
There is one bed in the walled garden that is thick with couch grass and field rancunulus. Filled with biennials for a couple of years, I rarely tended it. Now the biennials have reduced in vigour, there is no room to self sow and more importantly, I need the space for the Ranunculus I plan to plant there in January! I could dig it all out but instead I have covered all the thick weed growth with cardboard and some woollen cloth. It can be down now for at least 10 maybe 12 weeks before I will need to plant. And by then the worst of the weeds will have died back by lack of light and pulled into the soil by the worms. Enriching and clearing at the same time. Ideally the beds wouldn’t have got that bad, I’d hoed and sown clover but I didn’t manage it in time and this will do fine.
It is a lovely time to ‘potter’ without the pressure of jobs like staking, watering, dead heading. The pace has slowed.
Three for the Weekend
Pricking out Annuals. In the green house, pricking out late summer sown annuals into modules to grow on this the winter before being planted out in the spring. If they grown away quickly, I might be able to get them out before Christmas so I'll keep an eye on them.
Clearing to the compost heap. Outside on the cropping beds, raking off summer annuals and fallen leaves into the compost heap. Topping off the flowering stems of green manures, clumps of nettles and comfrey to add to the heaps.
Sow Sweet Peas. In the kitchen garden and polytunnel, clearing tomato plants and squash. These beds will be mulched - ready for poppies, ranuculus and sweet peas inside, and ‘florists dill’ outside. These plants are all sown and started. But this weekend sow sweet peas into slim deep root trainers, kitchen roll tubes or pots. Not too late to plant sweet peas now, in fact it’s perfect timing. Use peat free compost, sow 'a knuckle deep' and keep watered well. No need for a greenhouse, just keep out of frost and heavy rain somewhere sheltered.
I’m going to try green tomato chutney from the plants that still insist on fruiting (what a contrast to last year when I lost all tomato plants to blight) and the squash need to ripen for a week or two in the sun and harden the skin for storage.
Photos from this week on the plots -
More Ranuculus sprouting
September sprouted in the walled garden beds.
Dahlia beds framed by the cherry trees; a borrowed view from over the wall.
Some of the very last tunnel tomatoes. The orange ones are so sweet that they were like sweeties picked to snack on every time anyone passed through.
Cornflowers ready to prick out into modules to grow on. Autumn sown annuals produce larger and earlier flowering plants than spring ones. Best to do both!
Bed covered in woollen cloth to block out light and prepare bed for January planting.
Phacelia sown around the foxtail lilies. This is enriching the soil for those plants but also reducing the vigour of convolvulus that spread through the bed. So far so good, but I'll really know how successful this has been next June when the lilies flower.
Bought in the pelargoniums and other tender plants before rain and frost. Florist dill above on the racks patiently waiting for spring planting.
The chrysanthemums are coming and I am HERE for it!
Some of my favourite dahlias this month. The colours seem to gain complexity as the light reduces.
Butterfly ranunculus are small delicate flowering plants but the corms are enormous!