I’ve always been a great believer in the adage ‘a tidy house, a tidy mind’. There definitely seems to be a correlation between how clean the space is around me and how clear my brain feels in order to get on with work. Perhaps that’s why I’ve noticed in the last few years the fog that descends on me in August as the garden takes on a slightly wild appearance and I realise that it’s in control and not me. It’s not that I want a garden which is pristine. I prefer a relaxed space with plants tumbling over paths and self-seeded plants popping up in unexpected places, but there is a line where relaxed becomes chaotic. I’m sure I’m not alone in the reluctance to remove or cut back plants which are past their best but still flowering. With autumn comes a release, the freedom to feel able to empty pots of their tired and overgrown bedding plants, to pull out those annuals which have seen better days. It all feels very therapeutic.
October will be a busy month and time in the garden will be in short supply so we’ve made the most of this brief Indian Summer to gain some control. Pots have been cleared and replanted with violas for autumn and winter cheer, hanging baskets have been dismantled, the compost heap has been emptied, the last of the tomatoes picked. Then there was the plot. Work up there is restricted to weekends now but at least I’ve got Wellyman helping out now that he has finished his degree. Apart from brief trips to pick flowers or collect some fruit and vegetables it had been over three weeks since I’d done any work on the plot. I felt a bit guilty it had been so neglected but there’s nothing like a spot of weeding and deadheading to give you the chance to mull over the year and think about what you’ve learnt, the successes and failures, what you want to grow next year and what isn’t worth devoting soil to anymore.
A few thoughts which crept into my head:
- You can have too many pots – they overwhelmed me and the patio this year. Many of them were for work so were a necessary nuisance. But it has shown me the need for space in a garden particularly if you don’t have a lawn. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you can have too many plants.
- It’s surprising how inconvenient it can be to have lettuce and herbs growing on the plot rather than at home. It’s only five minutes away but it might as well be the other end of the country when I’m mid-sandwich prep and realise I’m short on salad. It would make sense to have these in pots at home but I refer you to my previous point.
- The frustrating and unfathomable nature of nature. Wasps have plagued our raspberries this year. Apart from them adding a certain amount of frisson to the picking process – Russian roulette with a sting rather than a bullet – they have the annoying habit of eating a hole in the base of a raspberry and then moving on to the next where they do the same. If they all clubbed together and at least picked a berry and ate the whole thing I wouldn’t mind so much, we all have to eat, but no, they work their way through our raspberry patch nibbling away as if they’re at a food festival and want to try a bit of everything.
- I love growing potatoes. For several years I haven’t bothered with the humble spud but back in January we were in a garden centre looking for something else and ended up coming out with a few paper bags of seed potatoes. Perhaps I’ve loved them so much because for very little effort they reward you handsomely. I’m looking to double the amount for next year. Any recommendations gratefully received.
- I can’t get enough of dahlias. As with the potatoes these fabulous plants need so little attention and yet they just keep on producing the most exquisite of flowers. They’re happiness in a vase. If the bank balance will take it, a whole bed will be given over to them next year.
- Despite feeling like I can’t keep on top of everything I can’t bring myself to hand in the allotment. I don’t spend as much time up there now as I first did. But where would I grow all those potatoes and dahlias if I didn’t have my little patch of land.
- Nobody mentions storage when they extol the virtues of growing your own produce. We had over 60 apples from one small espaliered apple tree this year. Fabulous! That is until you have to find somewhere to store them all. I look at those beautiful wooden apple storage racks that appear in stylish gardening magazines at this time of year and wonder who has the space for them – I can’t get into my downstairs loo because it’s become home to a trug for the recycling, vases which won’t fit anywhere else and a collection of pots filled with ‘Paper White’ narcissi for forcing. Best I stick to early potatoes next year.
- I need to be more ruthless. We have three rhubarb plants – two is plenty. I’ve been meaning to get rid of one of them for a few years now but never seem to get round to it. It’s the same with flowers. I seem to grow some each year despite not really using them as cut flowers. I’m finding that my flower patch is a bit like my wardrobe – I have my favourites that I go to all the time and others go untouched. Fashion magazines talk about capsule wardrobes – does anyone ever achieve that, even the top stylists must have something lurking in their wardrobe that they thought was a good idea when they bought it but they’ve never actually worn it. Well I think I need to attempt a flower version of the capsule wardrobe with my cutting patch. I need to ruthless with flowers that are taking up valuable space and ditch them next year, then I can squeeze in some more dahlias.
- Last year I’d missed the opportunity to sow some green manure and I really regretted it. I don’t like to see bare soil over winter particularly after persistent heavy rain when the soil takes on a pulverized look. It can be tricky using green manures though. That desire to eek out plants for as long as possible (this seems to be a running theme) means that it can often be too late to sow a green manure so that it puts on enough growth at this time of year do actually do its job. Well, on Sunday any vegetables and flowers that had seen better days came out, the ground was cleared and raked and in went some winter rye grass. Hopefully by the end of the month it will have formed a tufty, green duvet to protect the soil over winter.
I’d love to hear what you’ve taken away from this growing year.
Backlane Notebook said:
I too have been having a major edit and lifted eight clumps of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ into carrier bags with planting instructions. The Geranium macrorhizum is going next. I put them out on the pavement and they all disappeared to new homes. And yes small pots are time-consuming to keep watered and end up looking bitty. See my latest blog on Poundland plastic tomato and potato planters-not very glamorous but good value! The spud ‘Winston’ was new to me this year and was excellent as were all my climbing beans. But the Autumn raspberries have been poor as were the soft fruit bushes so I’m re-thinking the fruit beds. Yes to dahlia heaven and to buying lots more. Several allotment plot holders have huge beds of one or two varieties that they planted years ago. They even leave them in the ground in winter-do you?
I have so many sedums and geranium plants I need to lift. I like your idea about leaving them in a bag outside for others to take – I might have to try that. Will take a look at those planters. The problem this year was having lots of my own planters and then being asked to do some pots for a photo shoot. It’s not a bad problem to have. 🙂 By the end of the summer though we couldn’t get stirred on the patio. I need less of my own plants in pots I think. Will make a note of Winston. It’s been a good year for my climbing beans too, although cool I think they’ve liked the moisture. The raspberries are taking over too, no matter now much I thin them.
In the past I’ve always lifted my dahlias and stored them over winter but last year I didn’t have the space to lift all of them. I didn’t think the ones in the ground would survive but they did and the ones I lifted succumbed to damp. This year I’m leaving them all in the ground and mulching heavily. Of course this will be the year we’ll get a really cold spell. 🙂
I agree with you about the need to edit what you grow. Three years ago I grew 4 or 5 different varieties of aubergine; some are always more successful than others so I’ve decided to concentrate the space on the long thin Vietnamese variety; they are prolific, have good flavour whereas the large round ones I like to slice and grill are never large so in future I’ll buy those as I need them. I found that ‘Yard long beans’ will grow well even during the hottest temperatures and they grow very fast so next year I’ll grow dwarf French beans in spring and autumn and the Yard long beans in mid summer. This is becoming a bit long, I should probably write a post instead!
It’s always interesting to hear what has worked for others and what they won’t bother with again. I’ve never grown aubergines. partly because of a lack of space and partly because our summers just aren’t reliably warm enough. Would love to though as we do eat quite a lot of them. Look forward to your post. 🙂
Anne Wareham (@AnneWareham) said:
Re green manure… you haven’t thought of cutting down and leaving in situ? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningadvice/10617545/Strim-your-way-to-sanity.html
Works well for me – soil gets better and better.
I’ve done it on some beds in the past and still do with the rhubarb where it makes sense to let the rhubarb leaves die down to feed the roots. I do find I have more slugs though on these beds. Some plant material has to go because it’s covered in seeds and I’d just end up spending next year weeding out self sown plants. I also like the added benefit of a manure like rye grass breaking up the soil with its roots.
Diana Studer said:
I’m growing poppies for the first time – and have dutifully learnt that I must rip them out once the flowers fade. They seed themselves, and I’m already needing to thin out this first crop.
And revelling in a small river of Flanders red flowers.
Ah! Poppies. Yes, they do pop up all over the place. I didn’t get to mine in time so I’m predicting a carpet of poppies next summer.
Your river of Flanders red must look lovely though. 🙂
haha, control and potatoes, I’d have to say those are two things I’ve also take away with me this year. I gave a few things a good cutting back this past week and it was like you say very therapeutic. There was still plenty of life to a few things, but I’m done with them and it’s off to the compost!
I may try to diversify the potatoes this year. I’d love to have a nice basketful of fingerlings or something equally yummy looking.
I’m thinking of trying a blue variety of potatoes. I’ve also heard ‘Belle de Fontenay’ are amazing. 🙂
Willow Green Nursery said:
I had a shared allotment about fifteen years ago and we used it to grow things that were really expensive in the supermarkets.
We grew heritage potatoes rather than the ordinary ones – it was great having a whole barrowful rather than the six or seven you got in a supermarket packet. I seem to remember ‘Pink Fir Apple’ did exceptionally well.
I’ll add pink fir apple to my list of potential spuds. Thank you for the tip. 😉
A lot of what you say rings true with me as well. I’ve got lots of pots on the patio that need plenty of watering in the summer, but it is one moment in the day when I really slow down and just potter round thinking, so I don’t mind too much. It is really nice to clear up at the end of the summer though isn’t it. A shame about the wasps on the raspberries, and very annoying I imagine. CJ xx
The pots were lovely but we just couldn’t get stirred by the end of the summer. Even Wellyman said ‘we’ve got quite a lot of plants’. He’s normally the one encouraging me to buy more.
I am wondering if the wasp/raspberry thing is just something I’ve noticed. Not sure what the solution is. xx
I’m glad you enjoyed your potato harvest, hasn’t the year flashed by since we bumped into at the garden centre when you were choosing them? Sarah Raven’s wonderful for honing in on choice ‘unbuyable’ veg in her ‘The Geat Veg Plot’. It was a brilliant help when we started growing veg back in 2007, and although I grow less annual veg these days I still try to select things that can’t be found in Tesco. I seem to remember a choice variety of potato she recommends that’s used at Raymond Blanc’s restaurant – I think it just has a number or something equally enigmatic. I can look it up for you if you don’t have her book. I’ve deleted rhubarb plants this year, too, in favour of growing Angelica gigas grown from seed my mum gave me. I’ve been cutting the last down this week, the smell is divine, much nicer than rhubarb ….
I know, where has the year gone? Sarah Raven is good for those varieties that you can’t find elsewhere. I like the sound of the Raymond Blanc spud. If you could let me know the variety that would be fantastic.
To be honest two rhubarb plants are probably too much but if I can get round to forcing one of the plants next year it should work quite well. That angelica sounds good, the colour reminds me of Daucus ‘Dara’. Might have to give that one a go next year.
BF15, Ratte and Belle de Fontaney are ones popular with foodies. I like Anya, a bit like pink fir Apple but bigger and so much easier to clean!
Thanks for the recommendations. Belle de Fontaney definitely seems popular. Will have to seek out the others. We grew Anya a few years ago and it was lovely.
A most enjoyable post and lovely pictures. I find myself agreeing with all you say.
I intended to grow less better this year and think that I’ve partially succeeded, and will hopefully do better next year.
I think that the weather affected my raspberries, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have wasps to contend with as well.
My favourite potato is Charlotte which is a second early variety. Dig them up and use as a salad potato or leave them to get bigger. They also store well for use well into winter.
I don’t use green manures and just leave the dug over vegetables patches bare until I add compost in late winter or early spring.
Happy gardening. xx
Thank you Flighty. I love Charlottes – a very versatile spud. I’m hoping I can get hold of some manure this year for any beds left bare. You’d think it would be easy to come by round here but annoyingly it isn’t. it’ll be my quest for the next few weeks to track down some decent muck. xx
Most interesting post and comments. I know what you mean about pots and I have cut down the need to decide what to put in some of mine by increasingly filling lots of them with hostas – will see how that goes in a year or two. I shall be overhauling all my borders over the autumn and reducing or taking out any thuggish residents – needs to be done!
Thank you Cathy. A big overhaul due here to. Hoping for some good autumn weather to tackle it all.
I share your pain, Wellywoman – the tide of growth which by August seems unstoppable, and then plants start to loll about, and it all feels a bit out of control (in my garden anyway!). I often have to get the secateurs out and just tidy up even those plants which are still flowering strongly. I have lots of geraniums, and they start to sprawl all over the place .
I love dahlias too and it is my intention to grow more next year. Have you tried ‘Bishop’s Children’? They are so easy from seed and flower well in their first season. I grow them every year and get some lovely colours and all have dark foliage. A very cheap way to increase numbers of dahlias grown!
My garden too! I haven’t tried ‘Bishop’s Children’. i did once grow some dahlias from seed but they didn’t last long as cut flowers – my main motivation these days. 😉 Just got back from the National Dahlia Collection in Cornwall (post to follow soon). No idea how I’ll narrow down my choices for next year. 😉
I agree with your point about some crops being needed by the house, not stuck up at the allotment. I did a bit of both with lettuce this year. Cut-and-come-again in an apple crate planter by the backdoor, and hearted lettuce at the plot. It worked well.
I found that growing sweet peas in my cut flower patch at the allotment wasn’t a good idea either. I never had the right container to put them in when I had the time to pick them, and I didn’t get a chance to enjoy their scent like I would’ve if they’d been at home.
Lessons for next year ☺️
I know what you mean about sweet peas. I grow mine at the plot too and because their stems are so much shorter than my other flowers they to fall into the bucket. I’ve tried the leaves and hearting lettuces that way too last year and it worked well – just not enough space this time for more pots. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze some in next year. 🙂
Each year I tell myself, next year I will not have so many pots. They are a lot of work and take up so much space. But we have so many slugs here that many things can only grow in pots. So somehow I haven’t managed to get the number as far down as I’d like, although it is getting better. But I have dug out the lawn/grass leftovers and made a gravel path with creeping thyme instead. Now that it’s finished, it is much less work than having to mow all the time. This year I grew Belle de Fontenay and Ratte – both tasted really really good, Ratte yielded more, so I might go with those again as I don’t have much space and with Belle I had to dig up 2-3 plants to get enough for a dinner for the two of us.
I don’t know if you remember, but you said at the beginning of the season that you’d be interested to hear about my biodynamic veg gardening, but I’d rather tell about that in a mail, might get too long here, if that’s OK with you.
That’s interesting about Belle. I’ll probably give both of those varieties a try. I can recommend Charlotte and International Kidney. I’d love to hear about your biodynamic growing if you’ve got the time. Sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier, I’ve just got back from a week in Cornwall. 🙂
I’m with you on the potato growing front. I am also in love with oca, beautiful, weed-smothering foliage and then tasty little tubers, all for very little effort. I like the idea of a capsule-wardrobe equivalent for flowers, I have a terrible tendency to get over excited at the idea of new things, buy lots of seeds, and then struggle to find space for them in seed trays, let alone once they are plants.
We’ve come to the conclusion that we can’t be bothered with mange-tout, despite there being so many really pretty ones to grow. So next year, more beans, peas and French beans, plenty of sugarsnaps, but no mange-tout.
As for pots, I am on the opposite end of that scale. I forbade myself to have any pots until we had a proper seating area, and until I had got on top of most of the garden. So no pots, and I miss them. If I manage to put aside enough money from my plant budget (which will be tricky, I have some Plans) I want some tulips in pots. And more dahlias. Impossible to have too many dahlias.
PS I thoroughly recommend finding room for a couple of pots of salad leaves and some herbs by the back door, it makes an enormous difference, particularly when life gets really busy, being able to just nip outside and grab some leaves to bung in a sandwich or in the dinner pot.
I do that with plants too. I still have plants in pots that haven’t made it into the garden yet. 😉 I gave up on mange tout last year after trying some recommended heritage variety which turned out to be tough as old boots unless you ate them when they were 2cm long. Perfect for the Michelin restaurant market.
I only do tulips in pots now – it’s much easier to plant them and they’re not mauled by slugs. Speaking of too many dahlias, we’ve just come back from the National Dahlia Collection in Cornwall. All I can say is ‘oh dear!’ I do fear for the agonizing that is to come over my dahlia order. 😉
I know I do need to make space for salads at home. I’ve got a zinc bath planted with leaves at the moment which is working well. This pot tends to get commandeered for work stuff during the summer though. Definitely something to aim for next summer though. 🙂 x
Willow Green Nursery said:
I get the impression that dahlias aren’t as difficult as I’d thought – is it possible to grow them in pots that could be moved into a cold greenhouse rather than having to dig up the tubers each year?
Or does global warming mean that’s no longer the case? We’re in Cheshire and generally have wet, rather than snowy, winters anyway.
I think dahlias are really easy. I’m not sure about the pots. You could give it a try. A lot dahlias do form quite a large clump of tubers though so they’d need to be a big pot and quite a bit of space to store them, if you’re growign several varieties. They might suffer during the growing season too as they’re quite hungry plants. It is a bit of a gamble leaving them in the ground. They’d be unlikely to survive waterlogged soil or a very cold winter. I’m in Wales and probably have similar growing conditions, although we’re perhaps a little bit milder. I left some tubers in the ground last year and they have been fantastic this year. Ironically I lost the ones I lifted. This has been the first year I have lost lifted tubers though. I suppose it depends on how many you want to grow. I’m planning on leaving mine in the ground and mulching heavily but I will buy in new varieties too. If I lose the ones in the ground it’s not a big deal. If you’re growing on a large scale I would have thought lifting or growing in pots might be too time and space consuming and mulching would be the only way. This might sound like all a bit of a faff but I’ve been picking dahlias for 4 months now and apart from a bit of black fly early in the season they’ve needed hardly any attention. I think they’re fantastic plants. 🙂
Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread said:
I get all enthused about container planting and then the watering just gets old. I’m cutting back next year and will try to find a way to plant in the ground in the same area. Growing potatoes is fun and good eating but it takes a good sized piece of ground for a few meals here so I planted blueberry bushes in the same spot. Sorry to hear about your raspberries because I do love my raspberry crop. Dahlias are on my to buy list for next year. 🙂
We have blueberries and they’re one of the best plants to grow. We get fantastic crops from just 2 plants. I love a raspberry too but those pesky wasps. All the rain we’ve had hasn’t helped either, the berries go mouldy on the plant. Have fun with those dahlias. 🙂
I’ve been thinking some of the same end-of-season thoughts about editing my perennial gardens, Louise! Inside our home, I am working through Marie Kondo’s ~ The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by downsizing. I’m thinking of applying her philosophy in the garden, too! I’ve been giving plants to friends and neighbors. Such a happy feeling to share the bounty of our gardens!
I’m currently reading The Crafted Garden and enjoying it immensely! 🙂 Very soon, I will create a Seasonal Wreath from my Autumn Midwest garden cuttings. This is my first visit to your blog… and you have a new follower! I can’t wait to catch up on all that I have missed! Wishing you happy Autumn days in the garden! ♡
Maybe I should read that book too. 😉 So pleased to hear you’re enjoying The Crafted Garden. 🙂 Thank you for following. Hope you have some lovely autumnal sunshine over there. x
With more work on my plate, it often comes down to a choice between blogging and gardening but today I really do have to go and try to tame the jungle – I get smacked in the face by a huge achillea and tripped up by rhubarb and nasturtiums every time I go down. I’m going to focus on weeding and clearing then see what I’m left with. I’m definitely taking out my Autumn Bliss raspberries and will ask locally if anyone wants them. The Polka raspberries are still producing well and will be joined by maybe 3 more Joan J canes and that will do me. More space for flowers! I also have 3 rhubarb plants; the biggest is Glaskins Perpetual that I grew myself from a seed so I don’t know what to do! It’s too large for the patch and I now also have 2 champagne red plants that will probably be nicer. Ouch, decisions! I will be doing lots of thinking as I weed and clear today. Loving the dahlias, you’ve inspired me to try some for next year (I’ve already had a peek at Sarah Raven’s pages). Oh yes, potatoes – have a look at Pennards Plants website in spring. These are the guys that run the Potato Day for the RHS in spring (used to be at the Garden Museum) and have hundreds to choose from with good descriptions. They do mail order but also do lots of shows around the country. Hope that helps! Caro x (Also, PS, I grow lettuce in a long planter on Ikea brackets on the wall of my balcony; it sits on a tray of pebbles which I top up every few days and the plants do really well. Same with herbs. I’ve found having these nearby works best for me.)
We couldn’t use a path because the rhubarb had taken over. The raspberries too have flopped all over. They need some drastic thinning next year. Although they just seem to come back with even more stems. They seem impossible to get rid of. Thanks for the tip about Pennards. I’ve used them for seeds before. Must look out for a potato day near us. I know I need to have the lettuce at home next year. Some gardening jiggling is required this autumn. 🙂 x
So many of the things you’ve said echo my experience last season (it’s my Spring now).
–I got one green crop in early enough, the next one must have only been 2 weeks later and didn’t take. It’s now bare and pummelled by the rain and the other one is a mass of flowers.
–I’m chitting twice as many potatoes this year, mostly Agria which are yellow and floury.
–I’m going to pull out my green rhubarb and leave only 2 plants of the red one
–I keep trying to grow lettuce and green herbs in town but its not easy so I try to keep ‘allotment’ grown ones in the fridge.
–Right now the table, the spare bedroom, the garage including the sports car, and the fridge are full of vegetables and preserves of various sorts. This is wonderful but really underlines the need for planned storage.
I was just checking my green manure sowings yesterday and their germination has been very patchy. I’m probably just going to try and mulch as much as possible. Love the idea of your sports car being full of vegetables. 😉 Thanks for stopping by.
Rachel Jolley said:
I have only just come across your, quite frankly, beautiful blog! I’m hooked! I love the way you write, and have had quite a giggle, also the content matter and your STUNNING photography! And as for your title, well, just ADORE that! My dear sister bought me a lovely pair of bright yellow ankle wellies, with a black and white zebra type print scarf effect up one side, and the amount of compliments I’ve had over these has been quite phenomenal! I also adore Dahlias but can’t stand the earwig inhabitants, any ideas please?!
Hi Rachel, Aw! Thank you so much. I have to say much of the photography is down to my very talented husband.
I love the sound of those wellies. Ah! Earwigs! I’m lucky that they don’t cause me too many problems at the allotment. Two ways to tackle them – firstly plant pots stuffed with straw and placed upside down on bamboo canes in among your dahlias. The earwigs will hole up in there during the day to sleep. That’s when you have to empty them and dispose of them however you choose. The other way is a product called diatomaceous earth. It’s a powder which you need to sprinkle on the pests which might not be the most practical idea with earwigs as they tend to be nocturnal. Good luck!