Sunday, 27 November 2011

Whatever the weather

The garden last weekend, in the November sun
One of the things I've noticed since 'becoming' a gardener is that I'm much more aware of the seasons. In the spring, it's being aware of the first tiny buds on plants in the hedgerow, or seeing shoots emerge from the soil. In the autumn, it's noticing the first leaves turning and the gradual slowing down for winter. The crazy weather this year has made for even more noticeable changes, from the 'autumn-fruiting' raspberries appearing in about July, to our strawberries re-cropping in late October after that blast of Indian summer at the beginning of the month. In the garden, autumn has been slow to come - yes, I've been busy, but everything was still pretty green and lush until a couple of weeks ago when leaves finally started to drop from the neighbour's tree onto our gravel and plants in our garden finally started to droop.

Which explains why it was the weekend before last, on a particularly dingy, dank and damp Sunday, before I got round to cutting down the raspberry canes (we stopped picking in October as there's only so much raspberry jam a girl can make, but even the birds seem to have gotten fed up with the taste as there were still berries on the canes when I chopped them!) I also attacked our roses: I know that roses are one of those plants where you could simply spend all of your time pruning, training, feeding, maintaining and spraying for pests and diseases, but I'm afraid I just go for a 'treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen' approach and chop them down almost to the ground on an annual basis, then ignore them for the rest of the year (apart from to admire the blooms, obviously!) The runner beans were cut down and the a-frames removed too, and finally I emptied the greenhouse of the last of the tomato and pepper plants, ready to clean (I'll probably get around to this by Christmas, at this rate).

As a result, standing at the kitchen window you can suddenly see all the way down to the bottom of the garden again. Greens have given way to browns and yellows - I can see more bare earth and the outlines of plants now devoid of their leaves, which are instead providing some natural insulation for the roots on our grapevines, and a natural mulch under the fruit trees. Our winter crops are coming along - we've leeks, kale, cabbage, brussels, broccoli and parsnips to enjoy over the coming months (as well as, hopefully, some Christmas potatoes) but most of these plants are only visible once you get down into the garden - little oases of green which suddenly appear as we trudge down to empty the compost crock, or venture into the garden shed for a misplaced tool. There's still some more tidying to do before winter really kicks in, and some essential maintenance too, but at least the time-poor gardener isn't quite so overwhelmed at this time of year - thank goodness the weeds slow down too!

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