Thank you to those who made it to our pumpkin picking party yesterday: we’ve made a great start picking all the hundreds of pumpkins from the field, and transferring them to the Elephant tunnel (where the climbing beans used to be), to sit in the warm and finish off their ripening, away from the wet and cold of the fields, and attentions of slugs and badgers. We’ve probably picked around half or more of the pumpkins now, and will finish them off next week, then turn our attention to their neighbouring squashes: Crown Prince (my favourite, such dense sweet flesh), Uchiki Kuri, Green Hokkaido and knobbly but tasty Marina Chioggia, followed lastly by the butternuts that always seem to need a couple more days in the sun to set their hard skins and turn golden yellow. Having all the squashes and pumpkins ready picked also means an easier time when it comes to fulfilling orders, as you can see exactly what you’ve got and how many of each variety are left.
While picking the pumpkins, we could really appreciate the beauty of the clovers that were undersown in July and wheel-hoed in (broadcast using the Earthway bag seeder); as well as the usual red clover and yellow trefoil (not yet flowering, they’ll do their thing more next year when this patch is left to rest), I also threw in to the mix some pretty annual Persian clover with sweet-smelling star-like pink flowers, and crimson clover too for a change. I think crimson is my new favourite: I love the shape as well as the colour, and the late-foraging bees seem to be especially grateful for this bounty of flowers to help them keep going over winter.
We are also starting to pick some roots such as mixed coloured beetroot, and lovely delicate turnips; as well as the endless field of leeks (will we actually get through the whole field we planted I wonder?) which means that it really does feel like autumn now. We’re saying goodbye to the summer as the courgettes slow right down, cucumbers need clearing from the polytunnel, and tomatoes won’t be too far behind. However, at least there’s the prospect of leek & potato soup, roast beetroot & turnips, curried squash and pumpkin pie to console us!
Ah, the end of September can only mean one thing in terms of the veg patch: pumpkins and squash! We are now just starting to harvest our beautiful multi-sized pumpkins, and various delicious varieties of squash too (butternuts, Uchiki Kuri, Green Hokkaido, Crown Prince…); but now the evenings are turning chillier, we needs hands to help bring in the harvest and put these beauties in to store in a nice snug polytunnel, to protect them from the colder weather and help them ripen (and taste even sweeter, yum!). We are holding a volunteer afternoon next Thursday (29th) from 2pm-5pm, and looking for willing helpers to come and take part! As well as being great exercise, good fun and an afternoon out in the open air, we will also be providing delicious coffee, teas & cakes from Hartley’s kitchen – plus you can take home a pumpkin or squash too, to taste the rewards of your hard work! If you’re interested please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ahh September: the time of lingering summer, chillier nights, and also when you get a bit of a chance to keep on top of all the veg. The courgettes and cucumbers are now starting to slow down; and while they are still producing well, they are giving us a sensible amount of food rather than the crazy gluts of August. The tomatoes however have now taken off instead, and we’re picking around 15-20kg three times a week just to stay on top of them. The peppers and chillies are starting to turn red; and perhaps most excitingly of all, the pumpkins and squashes in the field are turning orange, woohoo! Soon we’ll be having a Pumpkin Picking Party to help bring the harvest in – if you fancy a few hours of picking and moving these beasts to the safety of the snug polytunnels, in return for some tasty lunch and a pumpkin to take home, let us know – more details to follow shortly…
Lettuces and spinach that have done so well are starting to go to seed and are being cut down; they will provide some kind of ground cover over the winter, while mowing ensures the weeds don’t take too much hold. Successional sowing and planting has been key to continued supply of salads and spinach over the summer; and while we had the odd mishap due to slugs hoovering off trays of seedlings at a time, or deer having a good old munch, we’ve done this pretty well this year. The last lot of outdoor spinach and salads went in last week; after that we’ll be relying on tunnel plantings.
Meanwhile Marmalade tunnel’s green manure of Persian clover has done very well (and smelt amazing – also beloved by hundreds of bees), and has now been strimmed and mown down, ready for incorporation into the soil, to give the next lot of salads a great start to life. Sowing winter salads in August and September is always a bit bitter-sweet: it means the craziness of the summer is coming to an end; but the tastiness of mustards and winter salads is on the horizon…