Keeping on top of the Cutty Garden is a tricky task; my weekend consists of Fridays and Saturdays, and at least one of those days ought to be spent attending to the various demands of the plot. There are many distractions and other obligations however, often meaning that the allotment day you have been waiting for and planning all week is reduced to a short hour or two. Never-the-less, I was determined that this week any time spent at the allotment would be productive and I set out with a to-do list and commandeered an extra pair of hands.
This week I read or heard somewhere the terrifying statistic that a bramble can grow 8cm in a single day. That is over half a metre in a week, or 2.4metres (7foot8!) in a month! One side of the allotment, from the shed and around the two old fruit trees that came with the plot, the brambles have been joined by bracken, bindweed and other weeds, behind the exuberance of the raspberry canes, in a swamping dominating tangle of undergrowth. I set my brave and noble assistant to work with the shears and loppers, and a stern word to watch out for toads and other creatures.
I turned my attention to the centre of the plot, where the runner beans and nasturtiums trails and twines and sprawled. The beans have filled the freezer, but have now at last stopped producing, whilst the nasturtiums have outgrown their strength. Time to strip The Cutty Garden back to her corsetry. I plan to leave the bean’s pole structure in situ and this will in turn, with the addition of some netting, provide the perfect climbing frame for next year’s sweet peas. I have decided that I will grow the sweet peas in this location rather than along the fence as I did this year, to make it easier to reach and pick the blooms when they come. Once the bed is weeded and edged, I will layer on a thick covering of mulch, a mix of rotted manure and compost which will hopefully suppress the weed growth and rot down over the winter, ready for spring planting.
Looking back, and some Pre-season planning
It would be hard to deny now that summer is over and autumn is latching hold of the garden. The sunflowers have finished, the bean poles now stand empty, the sweet peas have long since been sacrificed to the compost, and the herbaceous perennial bed is looking tired and in need of a tidy up. Mornings are cooler and bring heavy dew and gilt cobwebs to the hedgerows and the plot is still in tree-shadow when I reach it. Today, a jerky nervous covey of pheasants whirred overhead and clucked from neighbouring plot, peering over the long grasses and fidgeting their russet feathers, perhaps disturbed from the field edge by farmer or gamekeeper preparing for the weekend’s shooting party.
Autumn is a time for taking stock, considering the season past and planning for the next year. I have already mentioned about re-positioning my sweet peas, and I will be moving the sunflowers too. Both these annual flowers will be started in the spring and will take their place along the narrow centre bed which this year housed the beans and nasturtiums.
The dahlias will be relocated also. Once they have finished flowering and die back for the winter, I will lift and dry the tubers for storage. After the frosts I will plant them back out in a grid, in the main cut flower bed in front of the shed door, where I can tend them easily and admire them in their full glory. This year’s dahlia bed may well become home to more roses, as my addiction to these traditional and beautiful blooms grows.
In the spring I ordered a bulk buy of 10 mixed Dahlias on a special offer. The selection was to be at random, and I waited with bated breath to discover the colours and flower styles which would result. Two of plants have produced this spectacular purple-pink waterlily bloom and strong vigorous plants. They are still adorned with tight buds as well as producing many cut flowers for the windowsill at home. I will be taking special care of these particular tubers over the winter.
I am excited to consider growing some new plants next year, as well as repeating some much loved favourites. Under consideration are Chrysanthemums and Ammi majus, herbs and a number of tasty vegetables, and new varieties of honeysuckle, rose and clematis.
The larkspur proved to be a great success, both in terms of ease of growing and lasting well as a cut flower, and will certainly be making a return next season.
The strawberries were less successful, partly due to slugs and birds and mice making the most of the meagre crop of fruit long before I could, and so I have decided to cut my losses and I will re-plant the containers with a selection of bulbs over the next few weeks, in hope of some early spring flowers.
What a difference a season makes…