All is safely gathered in .....
All is safely gathered in......’; we remember and celebrate the produce from the land at harvest festivals all over England, and now the kitchen garden is ablaze with glorious colour, fading leaf, a sense of achievement and pride..... and how exhausting it has all been for some.....
Harvest the sweetcorn and courgettes and freeze or pickle them. Keep picking beans and spinach to encourage new growth, any glut of soft vegetables can be blanched then frozen, tomatoes can simply be washed, halved and frozen, while root vegetables should be lifted, dried over midday, and stored in breathable hessian sacks in a cool dark place.
Keep sowing spinach for leaves throughout the autumn.
Hoe regularly around winter vegetables. Annual weed seeds like to germinate now, and removing them before they turn into giants will help enormously. Anyone who has fat hen will know it starts life looking completely soft and harmless, yet turn your back on it and it turns into an enormously productive and massively woody stemmed weed, the roots of which cling to large clumps of my very precious soil.
Check your winter vegetables endlessly for caterpillars. I begin each summer carefully collecting them in a flower pot and transporting them to a new and happy life at the far reaches of the garden, or, I’m afraid, to the churchyard next door, after all they didn’t choose to be born a cabbage white. But by September I’m out early wearing my marigolds ruthlessly squashing every single one. Take out the thicker lower leaves from brussel sprout plants; like tomatoes, they don’t need all those leaves.
Pick lovely lovely apples and pears, store them carefully spaced apart on fruit racks in a cool shed and you’ll be able to eat them for most of the winter. Pick all the plums before the birds spot them. Here the jackdaws will eat them, but for now they are feeding in the cornfields so I have the chance to get to them first. Pick all the crabapples and make delicious jelly for winter meals, we love it for Boxing Day. Crabapples are often found unexpectedly shedding their fruit from roadside hedges. Mine this year are windfalls from the churchyard!
Now is the time to prune the cordon/trained apple trees. Take out the whippy shoots; you need the older wood to yield both shape and fruit. Leave the standard trees until the spring. Prune soft fruit bushes such as black and redcurrants removing about a third from the centre to leave newer shoots and a good structure which will produce healthy fruit.
Fully grown onions need to dry in the sun, prevent them from forming seedheads by bending their shoots firmly over.
Prop up pumpkins and squash from the soil so they don't rot.
I have self seeded coriander and dill growing around the compost heaps so I’ve been collecting the dried seed for cooking with over the winter.