Successful Autumn harvests

On a personal level, 2015 has been difficult, sad and very challenging. One thing that’s kept me going, kept me grounded and kept me sane is my veg plot. And this year, after putting no-dig into action, I’ve had one of my most successful growing years ever. One of the greatest successes of the veg plots has been the arch.

Munchkim pumpkins and Spanish Flag (mina lobata)

Climbing munchkin pumpkins and Spanish Flag (mina lobata)

I’ve been growing Spanish flag (mina lobata) up and after a very slow start, they’ve been romping away with wild abandon. I’ve also weaved in the munchkin pumpkins, hoping to have a little crop later in the year. The munchkins are also a bit on the late side and have yet to flower, but I have hope that they’ll get there eventually. If not, then we’ll just have some pretty squash leaves adorning the arch too!

Spanish flag scrambling

The raspberries have been producing fruit for picking on a daily basis for the last fortnight at least, and we’ve got more than enough in the freezer ready for some jam. This year I’m going to try seedless jam so it’s a case of getting a few bits and pieces before the jam pan comes out again.

Polka raspberries

The peas came out and straight away, in went some salad leaves and leeks so I have a ready supply for some serious soup making later in the autumn. There’s nothing like snuggling down with a steaming bowl of leek and potato soup and a chunk of crusty bread on a cold but sunny Saturday lunchtime.

Knucklehead pumpkin

I’ve been digging up monster sized Picasso potatoes, but they’re not the only super-sized produce we’ve been growing at The Smallest Smallholding. The knucklehead pumpkin has grown about six metres long and is looking to produce some hefty fruit for the Autumn, with leaves about twice the size of my head. Meanwhile, the yellow courgettes have been popping out fruit for harvesting, but Rich isn’t eating them fast enough. Courgette cake may well be on the menu.

Yellow courgettes

New no-dig plot

Lawn is, essentially, a pain. It’s more work, it needs to be fed and watered regularly in summer to look half decent (ie unsustainable, bad for the environment), and needs mowing on a regular basis too. To me, that’s just unnecessary extra work with no real benefits for me or for wildlife.

While I’m happy for Rich to take care of the lawn on the “flower” side of our Smallest Smallholding, on the veg side the super-poor soil under the lawn means that weeds rather than grass tend to thrive. There are ants nest aplenty, and mowing it regularly is arduous. It’s essentially unproductive land that could be doing so much more.

(Its only saving grace is the fact that we have a LOT of clover, and the bees love clover flowers. So we let big patches grow and do a sort of mowing rotation system so that there’s always an abundance of fresh clover available for them.)

How to make no-dig plot

Laying out the no-dig plot

Given that I am always struggling for space, it seemed such a simple solution to just reduce the amount of lawn and increase the amount of available veg bed space. In the past we’ve opted for traditional wooden boards to line our veg plots, but with my new-found fondness for no-dig vegetable growing, it’s just a case of compost/manure dump and go.

I’ve outlined where the new plot will go and put down some compost I had to start to suppress the grass. We’re off to a local stable to collect some fresh horse poo and hopefully by late Autumn we can start winter planting. I’ll keep you posted with some “how to advice” if  you’d like to give no-dig beds a go. In the meantime, check out Charles Dowding’s No Dig approach on YouTube.

Keeping Busy

Rondo Pea Pods

Rondo Pea Pods

I haven’t wanted to post in a while simply because I’ve been dealing with grief and getting on with life without Mindu. I miss my little girl every day. I’m seeming better and happier on the outside, but deep down I’m still so sad. It’ll just take time, I guess.

Keeping busy has helped me just get on. Luckily my no-dig plots are doing fantastically well compared to what I’ve achieved in recent years, so there’s always been something to do and lots of tasks to catch up on. The sweet peas are out now, and I’ve been harvesting my Rondo peas for the last week or so. The fresh pods are fat and long, and the peas inside are so fresh and sweet that they can be eaten raw, or blanched within seconds.

Rondo Peas

Rondo Peas ready for harvesting

The Cristo garlic was a bit of a letdown this year again. I have a feeling that they went in too late and a lack of any real cold spell meant that quite a few of the bulbs didn’t split. It doesn’t matter, I still use garlic in abundance but I was just hoping for a bigger, better yield. There’s always next year though. That’s the beauty of growing your own. Another chance, another crack at it. Always learning.

This year has also been the first year that I’ve grown shallots. They’re so much smaller than I hoped so I might have to do a bit more research next year before planting them in. The Hercules and Red Baron onions, on the other hand, have loved the hot weather and (very) intermittent showers so I’ve had my best crop in YEARS.

I’m pretty sure it’s all down to my new no-dig approach.

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