The cool, misty mornings of September are a sure sign that things are calming down in the garden. Although everything is still producing, yields slacken off and rather than getting crates full of courgettes and tomatoes at every pick, it is now more like a few handfuls. It is a welcome relief from the slightly relentless (though I am not complaining) harvest of July and August.
We have had an excellent year – especially compared to the washout of last year, and as almost half of our income comes from just July and August we have been incredibly busy the last couple of months which accounts for our lack of updates of late.
September marks the beginning of autumn and is a busy month for sowing all of the winter salads for growing in the polytunnels overwinter. Sowings for these have now been completed and we will be growing a range of salads and herbs overwinter including the usual rockets, mustards, other brassica salads such as mibuna, mizuna and namenia, along with leaf radish and kale, as well as non-brassica salads such as corn salad, lettuce and claytonia. These have all been sown in module trays and will be transplanted into the tunnels up until middle of October along with the parsley, coriander and chervil.
The last couple of things to plant before winter are the broad beans for overwintering and (if they survive the winter) these should crop a few weeks earlier than the spring sown seed, and the garlic which I usually plant in November to ensure it has a good period of cold for the cloves to develop.
Whilst we are still harvesting the summer vegetables, the autumnal crops such as the kale, squash and perhaps most beautiful of all borlotti beans are being picked. These beans have been growing solely for drying this year and we have had a huge crop. We will be selling these in their pods for use as a (semi) dry bean, but also drying most of them in the polytunnel for storing and using overwinter. Much protein eaten by vegetarians comes from beans and pulses which are imported, so for this reason we have grown a good number of borlottis, along with another drying bean from seed which were given to us by Evenlyn (a wwoofer from Tenerife). These beans, which can easily be grown in Britain, especially in a good summer like this year, can be used as an alternative source of protein without having to buy the imported equivalent. Although I am not vegetarian, or perhaps beacause I am not vegetarian, it bothers me that so many non-meat eaters rely on imported food when often one of their main reasons for practising vegetarianism is due to the supposed environmental implications of eating meat. The argument is often made that animals are poor converters of energy (which in simple terms is true), and so we should eat less meat, though it is of course not as simple as this. Firstly, much land in Britain is not suited to arable or vegetable production, and so good grazing practices in such areas are a sensible option. Also, grazing animals can be used as a valuable source of fertiliser in a well managed rotation. The debate could go on for some time, but it is important to know that it is not a simple one. This is illustrated well (from what I have read so far) by Simon Fairlie in Meat: A Benign Extravagance, and now that Autumn has come I can perhaps get round to reading it all!