Today you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was still summer in our part of the UK: the sun was shining, there was barely a gentle breeze to disturb the illusion and temperatures reached the low 20’s. It felt like summer but a look around my fading garden soon dispelled any pretence and I had to face the fact that there was one job I couldn’t put off any longer, so this morning I started the laborious process of clearing the spent plants from my beds, reclaiming my plant rings and labels and consigning numerous bamboo supports to winter storage.
The great tidy up had begun.
Not all the beds are destined to be empty by the end of this weekend, as there are still squashes and pumpkins growing and ripening, tomatoes turning red and even some runner beans not quite finished as yet. Also, in the raised beds and still under the protection of the netting, we have parsnips, beetroots and the last of the carrots, whilst down in the beds by the gravel path, two groups of leeks still reside, although they are a little on the small side, and the one remaining King Edward potato plant – now that’s been a good harvest this year.
My first task of the day was to cut down and take out the cucumber plants from the little green house and place them into one of my composters. Cucumber plants scratch and so in my opinion, it is always advisable to wear gloves and a long sleeve top when removing them. Once the plants were safely disposed of, I needed to dismantle the bamboo supports, against which the plants had been growing. When I had set the support structure up, I had constructed a three cane wigwam per plant and then used a longer cane as a strengthening piece, running along the tops of both of the cucumber wigwams AND two of the tomato wigwams. The structure had done its’ job and there had been no plant collapses due to heavy trusses etc.
My next problem was to figure out how to remove the securely tied on long cane from the tomato plant wigwam without disturbing the plants too much, although only one of the plants actually had any tomatoes left on it. Of course had the plant with fruit still on it been the one in the corner and on the end of the long cane, removing the long bamboo would have been relatively straight forward but alas, it wasn’t, it was the innermost plant! I carefully cut the twine which had fastened the long cane to the top of the wigwams and removed it, taking extreme care not to jiggle it too much. I was then able to drag the container with empty tomato plant out of the way and ever so slowly push the other one into the corner, freeing up some space which I needed for tubs for winter crops.
The growbags were then tipped into the compost bin and the tubs stacked, out of the way.
With space now available in the little greenhouse I turned my attention to the larger one. Peas which had been grown for pea shoots but had actually run to pods, followed the tomato and cucumbers into the compost bin, as did the melon plant which hadn’t done much of anything …. but then that wasn’t a big surprise really. Next into the compost bin was the tub of Purple Podded peas. These hadn’t done brilliantly either but we had had a couple of pods from them.
The empty tubs were then filled and placed into the newly created space in the little greenhouse and I planted one of the cabbage seedlings into the larger tub and a cauliflower into the other. I’ve said to Mud that I really need to line this greenhouse with bubble wrap to insulate it against frosts, as it also has the tub of Christmas carrots in it. My request has been duly noted and hopefully will be acted upon sooner rather than later.
Back to the larger greenhouse and I spent the next half an hour moving the pots from the bottom shelves onto one of the top ones and I followed this up with clearing out the old sprays and feeds. The Chicory (Radicchio) was placed in front of the Patio Chillis and the Cayenne Chillis moved across to keep the Caribbean Mix chillis company. This has now freed up both of the bottom shelves upon which we will be storing some of the smaller logs we’re trying to season, over winter.
With the greenhouses sorted, the two main vegetable beds were next on my list. Sweetpeas, pumpkins and some of the sweet corn came out of the shorter bed, in quick succession and I was able to re-secure the sunflowers which had managed to escape from their canes. The rest of the mangetout plants took a bit of time to clear, as I wanted to try and reclaim all of the plastic plant rings (and there were loads of these) which I had used to keep the stems fastened to the canes.
The final jobs for today were the catching up of the strawberry runners (I’ll do a separate post about his particular task) and then a final dig over of the almost vacant potato patch, to ensure that I hadn’t left any tubers behind. I found a good size one and a couple of new potato sized ones but other than these it would appear that I have got them all …. it almost goes without saying that I won’t have done. I can guarantee that potato foliage will show itself in that bed next year!
This bed is now almost ready to become my Winter garden. Mud has promised to make me two mini polytunnels next weekend, so that I can attempt to grow cabbage, cauliflower and kale under cover, over the winter months. I’m really excited about this particular project and can’t wait to get started ……….. a bit like the little Robin who watched my efforts today and couldn’t wait for me to get out of the way so he could enjoy a bite of lunch!