A Paler Palette

As we say goodbye to the rich colours of October and hello to November with its paler palette, it’s clear autumn is here. I’m a person who loves all our seasons, the colours, the constant change and different gardening challenges they present. Living in a singular climate all year round, well, it’s just not me. But as we take one step closer to winter,  it now becomes a race against time to get on with November’s tasks before the ground hardens and I’m giving myself a hernia trying to wrestle carrots out of the ground. So today on the plot, I laid some foundations for next year.

Firstly, it was time to clear away the old tomato, chilli and pepper plants in the polytunnel. They were looking exhausted and had nothing else to give. So having harvested the last of them, I then set about clearing out and cleaning down. I know I’ve gone on about it, but the polytunnel has been a great investment this year, it’s already paid for itself. Not only has it helped me grow a bumper crop of vegetables, it’s a great place to propagate and sow seeds. 1 Collage

Last year, I bought bare root wallflowers from an online company, and on arrival, I was bitterly disappointed with the state they were in. Although I cared for them, got them up to speed to produce some wonderful spring colour, this year I wanted to grow my own. So back at the height of summer, bathed in sunshine, wearing shorts and exposing my white knees to terrified onlookers, I sowed a batch of wallflowers ‘Fire King’ in trays and grew them in the polytunnel.

Once they had produced a good root system, I planted them out temporarily into an unused part of the allotment and left them to grow tall and strong until needed. Well today was that day, and having cleared my flower borders around the allotment, I moved them to their final positions. And as I grow waves of daffodils in the same beds, I’m hoping that early next spring, my plot will be awash with colour. Allotments in the depths of winter can look desolate, so I’m hoping  this splash of colour will lure the bugs and insects early in the year and offer them food, rest and recuperation on the darkest of days. And in return, these tenants will pollinate my growing crops. 2 Collage

This weekend, I also dug over more beds and got on with some more prepping and green manuring.  I know I’m in the minority up on the allotment when I do this, as the annual patchwork of tarpaulin and plastic sheeting has started to appear across the plots, but I’ve never been one to follow the trend. And anyway, I tried the plastic sheeting method the first year I had my plot, but I wasn’t happy with the results. It encouraged red ants to setup home there along with weeds with deep tap roots.

But again that’s what gardening is all about: learning, trying, failing and (hopefully) succeeding. But always keep learning. 6

Finally, in my last blog I mentioned our pumpkin dilemma. Well, in the end we decided not to sacrifice one of our home-grown pumpkins for Halloween carving, as the varieties we’d grown were quite small. We ended up buying one. And here’s what I did with it…

It turned out to be a pretty good night! I got to dress up, terrorise my passing neighbours and best of all, Agent Soph and I had a Halloween buffet to celebrate the night with heaps of homemade beetroot marmalade.. Hmmm….AdeSignature

Fearing the Pumpkin

Agent Soph would be the first to tell you, when it comes to seasonal events, I’m the first to hang a bauble from a tree, light a firework or dress up like something from The Walking Dead. So with Halloween fast approaching I’m having a major dilemma… do I have it in me to carve one of my homegrown pumpkins to celebrate the night? 3

Like most years, I’ll be dressing up in one of my most ghoulish of outfits to terrorise neighbours and to bring terror to my street. But to carve up my hard work, only to disregard it the following day seems… barbaric.

When I was growing up, Halloween was celebrated in my house with a carved swede. To this day, my devoted Mum still has limp wrists from years of hacking at a stubborn root, tying to produce something creative yet terrifying. I can’t look at the common neep without memories of my Mum at the kitchen table, trying to force a candlestick down the middle of it. 2

But as you know by now, here at Agents of Field HQ, we’re big fans of the squash. With a bumper harvest this year, it’s only encouraged me to grow more and different varities in 2016. In fact I’ve already marked out the allotment bed and have started prepping it for next year’s treasures. Any variety suggestions would be gratefully received.

But for now I’ll continue to ponder the best course of action. I know I could purchase a pumpkin from the local grocer for carving. But between you and me, the proud gardener inside me wants our pumpkins front and centre this Halloween, not so much as to scare the kids but to let the adults know what we we’re capable of growing!


Happy Halloween! AdeSignature