Some seventeen years ago, when we were starting out on the journey of schools with our children, meeting mothers and parents at the school gates for the first time and starting a completely new phase in our lives, I remember one mother who I had quite recently met bringing her daughter over to spend an afternoon with Izzi. It was a beautiful summer’s day and the girls played in the garden for hours. When the girl’s mother came to collect her in the evening she gave us a huge bowl of raspberries; they were from her garden and she had just picked them and I remember thinking, how I would love to be able to do that some day. And I still think of that moment quite often – it’s what has inspired me to always grow an excess amount of everything.
I love picking our own produce; there is nothing like preparing a salad, or cooking and eating things we have grown, as fresh as fresh can be. But there is also little that gives me so much pleasure as being able to give away a bowl of tomatoes, a box of figs, some cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, or fresh eggs from the chickens; it doesn’t matter what it is, just the simple fact that I can offer such things to friends (or perhaps relative strangers) really does make me so happy. They say the pleasure of gifts is as much in the giving as receiving, and this is so true. Giving away fresh produce costs nothing but it fills me with a warm glow and pride in what we have achieved; it’s a wonderful feeling of great contentment to be able to give something to someone else. Of everything we grow, I might just love eating a tomato most of all, freshly picked from the garden; it’s is one of the reasons I love my summer garden; I always think you can actually taste the sunshine, it’s the very essence of summer, distilled in the warmest of red globes.
The no-dig vegetable garden has proved to be an enormous success. When we started out on the project I was not 100% convinced. I watched countless videos explaining the theory and chatted with a few friends who had a mixed reaction. But in the end we thought we would give it a go and the verdict is that’s it’s been a rip roaring success! The weeds are certainly a tiny percentage of the amount we normally get and they’ve been completely manageable; and the produce – well who knows – perhaps it’s just been a good year for growing, but it’s certainly been a bumper crop. In the long run, only time will tell.
The end of summer is just around the corner, in the blink of an eye we will be embracing autumn. The garden is looking just a little tired, the lawn is parched and dry, nowhere near as bad as last year for this summer we have had spells of rain, but everywhere still has that fatigued look.
A couple of mornings this week have been misty and cool, another hint that autumn is knocking at the door.
Everywhere just appears sightly jaded, valiantly putting on a pretty display but feeling just a little worn around the edges.
Our mosquito fish in the pond have also had a bountiful summer – the several dozen we were given three months ago have multiplied into a swarm of hundreds, happily gobbling mosquito larvae as fast as possible. We have felt the benefits each evening, too.
It’s a time for evening bike rides once more
and beach things and boards and bicycles litter the drive
The wisteria is blooming again
and I love the pristine white of the Japanese anemone against the Virginia creeper which covers half the walls of our property.
Camera in hand, I suddenly noticed the fresh growth of the pampas grass gently blowing in the breeze.
The potager is much the same, happy but just a little weary. It might still be overflowing with produce but it looks slightly sad, and its jungle of leaves and forest of foliage has waned a great deal; it reminds me a little of a very faithful ageing dog. Don’t ask me why, but it just does, it seems to say to me, “I’ll keep on giving, but I am a little tired now and I no longer look my best, but I’ll still do the very best I can.” So now you have proof, I think I am going just a little mad, comparing a potager to a dog, but oh well, it’s good to be a little crazy sometimes!
However, we are harvesting fresh food every day, especially those aforementioned tomatoes!
Forget about perfection, looks can be deceiving. Small and perfectly formed is not always the best! We have a selection of varieties, some of the big ugly ones taste sublime roughly chopped in a salad or stuffed and baked with some local goat’s cheese melted on top. But the cherry tomatoes and the blush variety which look so pretty in salads do have one advantage, they are easy to snack on whilst working in the potager. Natural candy in vivid colours.
I have learnt this year that tomatoes freeze well when left whole. An extremely simple time saving solution. No, they won’t defrost and be lovely in salads but they will be perfect for cooking. So if you don’t have time to make endless sauces all summer long, which this year I did not, freeze them on trays and then bag them up. When you need them in the winter simply take out as many as you want and cook with them. This is another first for us, so I cannot vouch for its success, but it sounds sensible and logical and I’ll let you know of the verdict during the winter! We did know people who swear by it……
The carrots have been the best we have ever known. Again I adopted a new method of sowing (it seems to have been a year for trying new things!). Instead of the neat lines of the past I simply scattered the seeds thinly all over the prepared bed – what a transformation this has turned out to be. No thinning is required, and that back-breaking job of pricking out all the little seedlings which we didn’t want is no longer necessary. We just watched them grow and the weeding has been simple. Like our tomatoes they might not score 10 out of 10 for looks but they are full of flavour.
Most things will keep going strong until at least the end of October, but it will depend on the weather. Last year we were eating tomatoes until December (I think our last three were consumed on Christmas Eve!!). The year before they were all wiped out by blight by the end of September as if to prove there are some things out of our control; but what we can do right now is savour everything while we can.
The courgettes seem to have rallied a little and are having a bit of a resurgence. But the sunflowers, so bright and vibrant a couple of weeks ago
have now dropped their heads and are turning to seed, another sign that summer is almost over.
But anything purple is flourishing; the aubergines are flowering happily and producing as fast as they can, big fat shiny ripe fruits.
and our fgs and grapes are a constant source of snack material – as always if there is anyone in the area who wants figs let me know, we have far more than we can ever do anything with or give away!
There is still plenty to do in the vegetable garden. The remaining stones beside the huge wall still lay in the same place, untouched. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to put into action all of our big plans straight away! So that is another project for the autumn and winter and then perhaps I can plant a couple of almond trees in front of the wall. There is so much more to do.
As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”