November Harvest

Up at the plot with not a fellow gardener in sight, it felt like I was truly alone. The sun had disappeared, the wind was pounding, and my face looked like an over-cooked sprout, scrunched up trying to fend off the cold and the rain. But I couldn’t have been happier. Having spent another week on the London work treadmill, I was itching for my piece of freedom, whatever the weather was going to throw at me. 5

With not a soul in sight, it was an opportunity to have a little nose around at other plots. Who was growing winter veg? Were plots prepared for the coldest of seasons? And had anyone spent time on their plot since the warm tickle of late summer sun?

For somewhere that oozes life and growth, it’s surprising how downtrodden and desolate allotments can look this time of year, including mine. Despite the effort to carry out those winter tasks of primary cultivation, fleecing winter vegetables and taking the time to strip paths of weeds and overgrown grass, my allotment is starting to look a little sorry for itself. Nevertheless, it can’t be that unhappy as I’m starting to harvest some of the winter vegetables. 1 Collage

This time last year, the only thing growing was garlic, due to the fact I had only acquired my second plot so was busy designing and creating beds, borders and paths. This winter, however, it’s all going on!

Although it’s a little late to get things going now, if you’re considering year-round harvests next year, my one piece of advice would be this.. preparation.

In the height of summer when there’s so much life on the plot and you’re relishing those long days, it’s difficult to think that in a few months, all that you see around you will have decayed and withered, but seasons come and go. So when I knew I wanted to branch into winter harvesting, I spent the end of summer preparing those beds for the harshness of the winter. And a few months on, the hard work seems to paying off.

Not trying to blow my own trumpet but, things are growing. So far we’re enjoying leeks, beetroot, celery, carrots, parsnips, two types of cabbage, swede, sprouts and both my red brocoli and caulflower are just coming into their own. 1

So although many allotments in these dark days may seem lost and unkempt, take a closer look and you’ll be surprised to see how much life is thriving throughout this chilly season. AdeSignature

It’s Not All Rock n’ Roll

As my wife will tell you, I love Christmas. Thankfully, for her, I don’t let the festivities takeover until December. Even though it’s only November, homes across the land are under invasion by the ever-fattening Christmas marketing monster, feeding on people’s idea of Christmas. It manipulates their hopes, turning it into something commercial and grotesque and before you have time to question its morals, it starts to gather momentum and lashes out with expensively shot commercials telling us, our lives are incomplete without the latest David Beckham beard conditioner: ‘Put this on your whiskers and you too will have the bearded prowess of a puma’. You barely have enough time to reach for the eggnog when he strikes you again with a semi-acoustic cover track, pulling on heartstrings and encouraging us to part with our hard-earned pennies at the huge, souless department store. And just when you can’t take anymore, he wheels out the big guns: the X Factor Christmas single. Simon Cowell, touting the wares of naive singers to line his pockets with silver and taking whatever Christmas spirit there was and putting a price tag on it. evil_santa 1

But thankfully, there are many of us out here who are already wise to this annual brainwiping, and we have held onto what really matters. So whilst some will bathe  in the musk of David Beckham on the big day, for the first time ever, I’m wishing for a home-grown Christmas dinner! Which is why at the moment,  I’m keeping my brassicas, carrots, and parsnips under close scrutiny. 1

I know at some point the frost will come, and I’m willing it to. A sharp frost will work wonders to enhance the flavours of both my swede and sprouts. But until the frost arrives I’ll continue to weed and remove any unwanted freeloaders trying to get a meal out of my festive crops. 2

Talking to a newbie plotholder recently, she was concerned her garlic was already sprouting up through the soil. ‘I’m sure on the packet it said they won’t start growing until spring?’ Fear not fair maiden, I’ve been growing garlic for a good few years now and every autumn, whether it’s mild or cold, they always start to emerge this season. This has no negative affect on the final crop, so if there are shoots peeking through, enjoy their colour and take heart that your garlic are happy in their beds. 3

Finally, much to my reluctance, I actually got around to clearing my up shed on the allotment. At this time of year the day is short, so whatever time I get on the plot, I want to spend it tending crops, mulching and other soil related tasks. To clean my shed, well, it’s not the most ‘rock n roll’ part of gardening. However, with a clean shed I have reclaimed the space for my kettle and stove.

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So if you’re around, feel free to stop by for a cuppa and a natter about all things horticulture. Just so you know, there’s a baker at the end of the road that makes wonderful doughnuts, if you want to bring a few of them.. Well, who am I to argue. 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!

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Happy Halloween! AdeSignature