AUTUMN ALMANAC

June is the month when my allotment mind turns to autumn and winter. Gardeners work by the seasons – from January onwards I start to sow for the summer, and when the resulting plants are all finally planted out by the end of May, it moves on to the next season. Then in autumn emphasis is on preparing the plot for next year. Even at the start of winter there are things to be planted.

Whenever I mention this to anyone the nicest I get called is organised – otherwise it’s obsessive, delusional, idiotic, or just stupid. It’s a good thing I’m not sensitive – sob, sob. But with the change in climate we are able to grow and harvest vegetables over a longer growing season than probably when I first started gardening back in the nineteenth century.

And if, like me, you think of something and invariably think of a song at the same time. And my autumn song is sometimes Autumn Leaves – mainly because I can relax into my Nat King Cole impersonation (only in my head) – but it’s nearly always Autumn Almanac. Ray Davies was a wonderful storyteller, and Autumn Almanac is a good example of his quirky, English – almost London, folkish style.

From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar When the dawn begins to crack It's all part of my autumn almanac Breeze blows leaves of a musty-coloured yellow So I sweep them in my sack

Yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac

Friday evenings, people get together Hiding from the weather Tea and toasted, buttered currant buns Can't compensate for lack of sun Because the summer's all gone

La-la-la-la Oh, my poor rheumatic back Yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac La-la-la-la Oh, my autumn almanac Yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac

Rhyming rheumatic back with almanac, I can’t see Jay Z doing that – thanks goodness you say. And whatever happened to the rumour that the brothers were talking to each other again and that the Kinks were going to reform.

I always somewhat wished that I had had a brother rather than sisters – but so many don’t seem to get along and fall out, maybe it was probably for the best that I didn’t.

So what I am doing in June preparing for autumn and winter.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Maximus Brussels Sprouts were sown this week. I sow into 4” pots filled with multipurpose compost and cover with vermiculite. The pot is placed outside and after germination will be pricked out into modules. When they are established in the modules I’ll move on into larger pots, waiting until space becomes available, probably when the garlic and onions are cleared.

Over the next few weeks I’ll progressively sow more brassicas; cauliflowers Clapton and Romanesco; Cabbages Greyhound, January King, Rovite, and Red Drummond; Calabrese, and lastly Kale Nero di Toscana. Interestingly, Kale doesn’t seem to get eaten by the pigeons (tempting fate), so can be planted without netting when the cabbage white season is over.

Other than brassicas, I’ll sow a row of turnips and a row of Swedes later in the month – and then a bed of carrot Autumn King which will last all over winter – I’m still using some from last year which I didn’t dig up until about four weeks ago.

These will supplement winter crops I’ve already sown; parsnips, salsify, chicory, beetroot, and leeks. Hopefully these will minimise the number of vegetables I’ll need to buy throughout the year.

If you think that’s all very nerdy, watch the youtube videos by Seaside Steve called Steve’s Seaside Allotment. He has an amazing spreadsheet system recording just about everything – when, what, how, why etc – just about every detail of his sowing and planting routine – not quite inside leg measurement, but nearly.

Talking of youtube, I have seen a few videos lately warning of Aminopyralid contamination in manure caused by the application of weedkillers to farmland used to grow hay and other forage which are then eaten by stock.

Typical symptoms include cupped leaves and fern-like growth on sensitive plants. The shoot tips become pale, narrow and distorted, with prominent veining on the foliage. Growth generally is stunted, leaving most crops unusable. I don’t think I’ve noticed it in the manure we have delivered – it’s easy to blame any poor growth on this problem – but it’s worth looking out for.

Lastly, it’s only six weeks to our annual show. Do try and enter a few exhibits, or only one will be welcome. Louise will be sending out the schedules in the next week – this isn’t an RHS show so the standard is by no means to a professional level. If you can’t enter anything, do come along to the show – see what’s entered and maybe next year.

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