Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Autumn arrives on Plot 45

Seed saving - Sunflowers

Rays of late summer sun pierced the canopy of the tree.  The shady path curved gently right, its rough surface dancing with light and shade as a spirited wind whipped through the branches.  A handful of what looked like freckled limes littered the way stopping me in my tracks.  Walnuts, their fibrous, leathery casings showing signs of exploration by sharp-toothed or strong-beaked harvesters.  Swiftly I bagged them up.  In truth, my expectations were low - too early, too green, too fibrous perhaps.  On into early autumn, each walk down this path was accompanied by a nonchalant sweep of the ground for bounty.  Each time, taking the path that skirts the warm stone wall of the priory, I passed through the creaking gate into the sanctuary of the allotments.

Walnut harvest

Now we are really into autumn and each plot offers a little treasure as I pass by - a handful of lovage seeds to the right; the dried umbelliferae of fennel to the left; stiff sculptural poppy pods over there; and  decapitated heads of sunflowers atop a compost heap here.  On my own plot there are beans and pumpkin seeds to be saved, and I have my eye on a particularly beautiful nasturtium that has crept across from my neighbour.

Sunflower - Old Rusty

If I've learned anything since taking on this plot 9 years ago, it's that no two growing years are ever the same.  Just because something grew well one year does not mean it will thrive the next and the crop that did badly last year may well surprise you this.  In 2015 the stars have been the legumes and soft fruit, but leaves and beetroots have faired badly.  The herb bed is still looking fantastic, though for some reason parsley didn't thrive at all.  Yes, everything has gone if not yet to seed then certainly to flower, so goodbye to pungency.  And soon we'll be hit by frosts, meaning goodbye to the ritual of gathering bouquets as I leave the plot.  What's certain is however good a gardener you think you are, nature will always put you in your place.

Borlotti beans

So, you may as well take some chances, because you never know how things are going to turn out.  Which is why I've taken on the extra strip nobody seemed to want.  Unloved, uncultivated, dumped on and neglected, this hillocky patch of nettle infested ground is now mine.  Which is why, right now, I'm so often to be found chasing back nettle roots and levelling ground under this glorious autumn sun and praying for the weather to hold.

Herbs and Kabocha

I say it's mine but there are sitting tenants.  The field mice nesting low down in the base of the heaps.  Each time my hand hovers over a soft, furry bundle guilt overcomes me and I move on, leaving it to snuggle back down.  The squirrels treat it as a larder, their stash of walnuts far exceeding anything I managed to accumulate.  I'd like to take them home - the nuts I mean - but that guilt thing kicks-in and I carefully pile them up on one side of the plot like a helpful dinner lady.

Seed Saving - Poppies

But this beautifully prepared bed isn't for fruit or vegetables.  Maybe I'm mad, but I'm planning on roses.  Biodynamic roses.  Maybe, at last, I'll make rose petal jam.


Oh, and those walnuts?  Well worth amassing a stash.