New For November

Rob, Production Trainee, recently remarked on the notable change in rhythm now, compared to his start in the horticultural deep end of April. In the Long Play of the year, late October begins that drawn, chilled out final track after a sequence of banging tunes: a slow fade into the white noise of winter…
As far as the task list goes, there’s still plenty to be getting on with. The pressure’s off, except Harvest Tuesday continues to be, happily, frantic. We aim to finish all the Entrance Field plantings and amendments by Zapatista Day, 17th November. That’s eleven beds in four weeks, not unambitious at any time of year. The garlic and fava could be planted later, only from now on in the soil is on a one way trudge to sodden, so the sooner we sod off of it the better.
I love this time. Every veg bed gets its final weeding, whether they need it or not: it’s about grasping, at the death, last-gasp winners after trailing behind the horsetail, groundsel and couch all year. For all its renewal, Spring, with its rampant growth, never allows for this wiping of the slate. In this gardening respect at least, Hallowe’en’s status as the Celtic New Year seems to make sense and, lest we forget, the Festival of Remembrance.
Our Open Day at the end of October remembered the recent past of this growing season, with the hard-won fruits of squash and chillies on plentiful display, as the plants that gave of them fade fast. And a chance to glance back at the last – our first – five years at Hawkwood Community Plant Nursery, with the launch of the book, “Seedlings From The Smoke”, an “idiosyncratic narrative” of our time here, bringing in over one hundred people, and perhaps one or three curious ancestral spirits.
At the same time as savouring the last sweet fruits of the summer – the tomatoes are holding up well, thanks to the bouts of surprise warmth; the apples gone to market or cider vinegar, every one – we also enter the dark shrine of the Ambient House. The beetroot, “the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon” according to Tom Robbins, was brought in en masse from the Entrance Field last week, cleaned, separation of the quick and the dead, and laid to rest in the suspension of our “urban clamps”, for some future resurrection into the gilt light of the produce delivery crate.
I’m slightly disappointed with the beetroot this year. Human error set us back: the early sowings were recorded as done but never visible on this plane of earthly existence. Subsequently, we sowed dense, but this bid to slim down last year’s super fat beets went too far. Many of the roots have gotten to October, and in the all-important sports ball comparison stakes, are not much larger than a marble. This may be the right side of last year’s handball sized monstrosities, but a few crucial putts away from the ideal cricket/ golf ball park. Yet such mistakes are par for the course: every year a new journey down the Old Ways.
My latest personal new journey down old ways began in earnest on Monday night, returning from the OrganicLea AGM to the confirmation that my partner Hannah’s waters had broken, three days in advance of the Frosty Full Moon, and thus my paternity leave had begun, in ironic contrast to most of my gardening work, ahead of schedule, by a clear two weeks. I’ve always upheld the common sense tradition of long winter, as opposed to summer, breaks for growers, be these in the form of staycations or vegetable pilgrimages: this new arrival heralds an extraordinary journey in nurture and growth, that I trust will also reflect back on the gardens.
So, all may be soft and still on these pages until after Midwinter. Meanwhile, Gary, Aimee, Vi, Hannah guide the rest of the team through the slow fade and into the new year; into the white heat; the wonderland of the winter garden.