In the ecocentric Celtic calendar, Halloween marks the New Year. And I reckon that if, by some bureaucratic howler, gardeners were put in charge of redesigning the nation’s wall planners, you’d find many of them starting in November.
It’s by this point that crops from the growing season past should have been lifted, and in many cases the crop rotation enters its next annual cycle. As the afternoons darken, the season can be reflected upon, analysed , and plans and projects for future growth drawn up.
Here at Hawkwood, it is reassuring that we seem to be in step with this rhythm. We’ve just had our project workers’ annual evaluation, and Roger has been feeding this year’s crop yields into a spreadsheet, so we now know exactly how much beet we’ve successionally cropped from the end of June from our 55 metre bed (the answer is, of course, 150.5 kilos).
These red roots, and the spuds, are out of the ground, and we are just pulling the last of the celery. Only those exceptional stalwarts, the leeks and winter brassicas, remain out-standing in the field. We have planted out all the winter salads. Despite their billing, they yield heaviest in April and May, although the light cuttings through the dormant season are most welcome. Last week we began to wrestle with the build up of weeds in the Entrance Field, in preparation for the moving on of the rotation heralded by the imminent appearance of broad beans, garlic and green manures.
It’s all over for the tomatoes, that vegetable totemic of summer and the Lea Valley. The bittersweet smell of Marlene’s vats of bubbling green tomato chutney gusting out of the kitchen seemed almost as seasonal as the fungal incense of leaves burning gold to brown. Out toms carried the hopes of the whole season when they were sown amongst the frosts of early March. They have yielded well, and might have gone through to midwinter, but the blight and rats both found their way to them, and there are times when you have to cut your losses and make a clean start. Now seems like a fine time.