Putting the potager to bed

cavollo nero novemberBrrrr. It’s a three fleecy jumper morning.  And I was tempted to add another until I realised I would waddle about like the michelin man. And today was an action day; freedom of arm movement a must.


I have spent the past two days down and dirty in the large vegetable garden, putting it to bed for winter.

There are still plenty of crops in here if you look hard enough, so it’s not going to be bare earth and bleak.

In fact the brassicas are actually better now than in the summer when they were being hammered by the triumvirate of fire bugs, drought and cabbage moth butterflies.

Plenty of eating still there. And I thought I had a large bed of parsnips and carrots which have been growing madly all year.  But I have been thwarted by the mole rat which has rampaged under the roots. munched parsnip

And the really annoying bit is he/she/it leaves a dome of parsnip and carrot so that I think I have a large veg growing below ground. It looks great.

But dig it up and you see just what a gourmet summer the rat has enjoyed.  I am hoping that I will get a few large parsnips for Christmas lunch. Surely the whole crop hasn’t been munched.

I’ll dig them up in December to see. And I think I will dig over this entire bed.  I’m usually a no dig vegetable gardener, but this one-of-seventeen beds obviously is overrun with mole tunnels and has easy access for the sneaky mole rat.  It is not related to moles, but it makes use of the underground network the moles create.

potager dahlia mulchedWith the crop rotation I won’t be putting parsnips anywhere near here. I think it will be salad and tomatoes and aubergines next year.  I wait until spring before I decide the exact plot.  But the mole rat has eaten its way through just about every root this year.  Swiss chard and fennel being a firm favourite. What’s to stop them having a go at thick aubergine roots as well?

But I digress. I wasn’t planning on a rat rant.

The hard frost (down to minus 4C) has finally killed off the dahlias and annual flowers. So I was able to work my way along the long row, cutting back stems, mulching the whole area where the pots are sunk and generally looking on amazed at all the flower seedlings.

I can’t imagine they will last. But I am keeping them in situ. dying dahlia

And speaking of in situ. Or seated. That was what Artur was hoping for. He kept insisting I profer a lap. But I was kneeling today (sciatica don’t you know) so there was no lap in sight.  Most creatures would have been thwarted, but not the Beast.

He just waited until I was in the kneeling position and then leapt onto my legs for a spot of surfing.  He clings on quite well, even while I’m shuffling. But even he got tired of the lack of attention and slunk off.

calf surfingI really was trying to give all my attention to the plants. For once.

(And in case you are wondering, it’s a selfie. I just aim the digital camera over my shoulder and hope I get him in shot.  Thank goodness you can delete the duds.)

I’m always amazed just how hardy some of the plants are in this garden.  Most things should have been turned into soggy tissue paper by the cold weather.

The nasturtiums have collapsed of course.  They actually look a bit like seaweed when you grab a handful and pull them out.

If I were thrifty I would have used some in a sort of exotic stir fry.  But it was cold. And even though I was wearing a sturdy but close fitting pair of washing up gloves to work (a handy garden tip) it wasn’t the weather to be sorting too hard. nasturtiums collapsed

I didn’t even collect all the nasturtium pods to make pickles. I just pushed most of them to the sides of the beds so they will germinate like weeds next spring.

I did find a few strawberries that were still delicious and not squishly. They were munched as I worked. But the raspberries are mostly mush. And the cherry tomatoes still hiding in among the brassicas looked rather good in that orblike way. But were quite mouldy when you chomped.

Not a good idea.  I won’t be doing that again. Thank goodness I have a lot of handy palate cleansers nearby.  The rocket is growing like a weed just about everywhere. And its peppery flavour chased the mouldy experience nicely.

november strawberryThere are other lettuce still going strong.  I did lift a few of these self seeded baby lettuces to bring into the potting shed for the winter. But as an experiment, I will keep the rest in the ground to see how they fare.

Which is garden code for ‘I’m being lazy’.  If they get hammered by the snow or the cold then it’s a natural end to the vegetable garden year.

And if they don’t expire I’ll have some lovely lunch.lettuce sweet pea

The lettuce is all caught up with my two other self sown beauties: sweet peas and violas.

The violas are brilliant, and I just lift them and move them to the sides of the beds as I weed.

lettuce post frostBut the sweet peas I leave well alone. They have self seeded here for years and are allowed to grow anywhere they choose.  Even if it’s madly inconvenient and right in the middle of where I want to plant my broad beans.

Flowers are allowed anywhere they like. Their flowers attract the bees which pollinate my crops.  I even left a lot of the poppies that have survived the thick mulching. Teensy little plants for now, but come spring they should burst into life.

Snow and freezing cold won’t stop them. Or me. As long as you keep me well supplied with logs for a blazing fire and a decent supply of whisky.

beds cleared