Only three weeks until winter

Normally at the this time of year there is a reluctance to except the winters arrival.  With every drop in temperature I moan and complain.  As the nights draw in, long gone are the leisurely evening antics in the garden – weeding and watering in the lingering heat of the day.  Now gardening tends to wind up in the late afternoon, usually extended by torch light as I nip out to get something for dinner.

Tidy autumn garden
While not as flamboyant as a summer garden, it isn’t looking too bad for this time of year.

But this season there is something different going on.  I am excited for winter as it brings me closer to the new season – one full of hope and expectation.  Surely we can’t get two horribly horrendous growing seasons in a row.  I’ve pretty much written off in my head any expectation to cling on to the dying remains of last summer.  Except the peppers, they hardly had a chance to get going so I’m pampering them a bit in hope of some kind of harvest.

Pepper plants
I do feel for these poor pepper plants. Have just haven’t had a fair go. And yet they are still determined to push through this adverse season, so of course I’ll do what I can to help them out.

With this forward thinking for winter, rather than a reluctance, I am able to see it in a new light.  This isn’t a season to be endured but one to be cherished.  It is a time for projects, planning and dreaming.   The chaos of the growing season can be meticulously planned so it becomes organised chaos with better results.  Lessons learn over the last 12 months can be applied and new things that can help make gardening better can be constructed.  I never thought I’d say it but I’m looking forward to the winter.

Broccoli side shoots
This row of broccoli keeps giving. It has been in for months and it was such a long time ago I that I took the main head off and the side shoots have been so prolific we can hardly keep up.

Thanks to a garden visit earlier this week by an enthusiastic garden group, I was forced to pull myself out of my floody blues and whip the garden back into a shape that would be respectable enough for a public showing.   In spite of the grass being halfway to knee deep and the beds full of the dead and dying, there was the bones of something good.  My section system for the care of my garden, implemented throughout the summer and autumn in spite of the weather had left me with a garden that was easy to restore order.  There was no backbreaking digging and weeding, just a gentle tickle here and bit of a pull there.  The thing that made it a big job was the size of it all.  I’m seriously considering putting in a fence to contain my enthusiasm for new gardens!

Yellow asparagus fronds
The asparagus fronds are taking on a brilliant yellow as it dies back, taking nutrients back into the crown.

So now I’ve come up with an easy plan to manage the garden over the winter.  I remember how I normally enter the cold season with an eye roll and the presumption that it will last for EVER!  But I also remember how it is normally over in a flash and leaves me on the hop with half completed projects that need immediate attention before they get lost in the craziness of the growing season.

empty bed
This garden may be empty now, but not for long, come the shortest day it will have tiny onion seedlings beginning their journey towards the summer harvest. I always love this mid winter link to the summer to come.

I also remember well how wet it gets here in September and it is something I have learned to live with.  But I’ve not been very good at living with it.  I normally slowly plod towards the spring thinking I have all the time in the world to get the beds ready and then boom – it rains for weeks and I end up not ready and catching my tail with plants languishing too long in pots.  Well not this year.  The beds are in a good place now – weed free and mostly empty of crops, or nearly empty and some are even still working hard for me.

empty bed
This bed won’t see crops until the peas make their home there in the spring, so there is time to pop in a quick mustard cover crop.

So as these beds come free I’ll begin the process of enriching and preparing.  This is best done ahead of time and not in the hours before planting as it allows time for the organic materials to incorporate into the structure of the soil, so the tender roots aren’t burnt by fresh nutrients.  The microorganisms can change things to the way plants like them.  The frost can break up the clods of soil.  Cover crops sown now (albeit a tad late) will have plenty of time to break down, enriching the soil before it is needed.  Thick layers of compost and well rotted manure can be absorbed into the soil on there own with little effort on my part.   My aim is to have the beds ready before the September soggy.

Brassica bed
The brassica bed has been refilled with broccoli, romanesco and cabbage that will fill our late winter plates

To add to the winter workload, I have three construction projects I aim to achieve – one each month, but more on that later, but they will make such a great difference to my spring and I’m looking forward to creating them.

The peas, while a tad late are reaching up and will hopefully flower soon

And on the days it is raining – because it will, I shall make grand plans for the new inhabitants of the garden this spring.  There will be old favourites, but places for something new and as complex as working out the seating plan at a wedding, I shall enjoy taking the time to decide the perfect place for everyone so we have a fabulous growing season ahead.

So for the first time ever I am anticipating the winter with great excitement.  I can hardly wait.

Come again soon – there is something good to be found in the garden every day of the year.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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