Gardens Archive - NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2004
Yet again another season draws to a close, the clocks have gone back and the nights have drawn in. The leaves are falling rapidly and we have not been fortunate this year to experience the rich colours of Autumn. As the soil temperature drops along with the light levels germination of most seed ceases. If you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse you can extend your season somewhat, but with low light levels growth can become spindly.
We are still harvesting salad ingredients from the garden. Many of the oriental salad crops such as Mizuna, Mibuna, and Tatsai, along with Greek Cress, American Land Cress and Wrinkled Crinkle Cress do grow happily through most winters. Endives and Chicories are a mainstay at this time of the year, particularly the brilliant red radicchios. Many of the Mustards such as Indian Red, Seuhilhung, Sasai and the delicate Yellow Mustard continue to add a hint of fire.
If you have been growing Rocket throughout the summer don’t be tempted to pull it up as the flowers are equally as flavoursome as the leaves. We have been fortunate enough this year despite a poor summer to harvest good outdoor black grapes. The next fruit crop we shall be harvesting will be the Medlars, an old reliable winter fruit crop, if something of an acquired taste. They need picking after the first frosts of winter and storing until they begin to decompose, they can then be used to make interesting jams and chutneys. They used to be a staple winter crop in mediaeval times because of their guaranteed fruiting, providing much needed winter flavouring.
With the months of winter looming on the horizon, this time of the year is best suited to replenishing your soil with organic matter for next season’s crops and planning any changes you may wish to make next year.
My advice would be to sit down and peruse the new seed catalogues and see what new additions have been made. Most noticeable this year is the addition in many catalogues of different coloured carrots. Originally carrots were not the familiar orange colour we have become used to, naturally they vary from red through to white. The traditional orange coloured carrots were bred in honour of William of Orange, upon his ascension to the English Throne. It is therefore welcome to see a return of the natural carrots, as their flavour in my opinion is much better.
The only sad note this year has been the demise of Halcyon seeds, as they have been a mainstay for many gardeners of unusual and interesting varieties. Hopefully some of the larger companies will be able to continue their good work of the past, they shall be sadly missed.
Here's hoping the winter months are not too cruel and it won’t be long before the first Snowdrops herald the start of another season.
Andrew Mellin (Head Gardener Northcote Manor)