There’s a chill in the early morning and evening air, one that Head Gardener Sallie knows will bring a riot of autumn colour and which marks a time of year when everything, gardeners included, can start to slow down.
Transition into autumn can be as quick as turning a page hastened on by a late summer storm sending reverberations throughout the swathes of green stopping everything in its tracks like an aftershock. Other years there is a subtle and slow realisation that change is afoot, miniscule drops in temperature prompt us to that don an extra layer in the evenings, and that dusk has begun to encroach on evening meals signalling that a new season is not far away.
Autumn gardens, to me, are accompanied by a certain smell (sort of cloves and earthiness) with those beautiful tell-tale signs of richness in leaf colour that begin to transform the sea of green which has dominated our parks and gardens for so long. It’s a time to revel in what has been and settle into this often mild and still part of the year. Relishing the moment is ever more poignant currently; take stock, celebrate the growing year, and breathe in the successes for a spot of well-earned mindfulness. This is the gardeners time of year!
Vegetable harvests will begin to wane over the next few weeks and by now you will be expert with how to deal with any glut of courgettes, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and chillies. If you have not shared them with friends and family, then making chutneys, pickles and jams is a great way to store vegetable crops and create homemade gifts for Christmas. The autumn fruit harvest is next on the agenda so freeze some of the vegetables and keep in mind a good Christmas chutney where you can combine the best of the vegetables with fruit such as apples, plums and pears spiced up with chillies!
My Aunt used to use up her glut of apples and onions with this no cook chutney recipe, but there are other recipes out there too, so seek them out. This one is such an easy one, especially if you have a blender. You just throw in unpeeled, halved apples with their cores and seeds too, with dates and onions and the requisite vinegar and sugar. I found the same recipe online here No-Cook Apple, Date and Onion Chutney Recipe by The Cottage Smallholder and I can echo the fact that it is a family favourite!
Garden jobs for now!
Seed gathering: This must be top of the list. Use paper bags to collect seed pods ready to burst, leave the bags open somewhere to dry out completely, preferably hanging up to prevent them becoming dinners for mice! We use a pull-out washing line contraption with pegs to secure them in our garden cabin which is dry and warm. Any insects have the chance to fly or crawl away and then we sort the seeds removing as much of the dead matter (leaves, stalks etc) by blowing it away gently which separates the seeds from the chaff. Seeds can then be secured in paper envelopes with a date and plant variety which we store in secure boxes and tins ready for planting in the spring, sharing or swapping to encourage green fingered activities across our community of patients and visitors in the spinal centre.
Leaf gathering: When it starts, you need to be at the ready! Our leaf rakes were worn down so low, they were not going to pick up anything, so a quick spot of shopping was required. Clearing leaves up from the lawn will maintain the health of the grass. Clearing them from pathways prevents slippery spots when rain-soaked leaves begin to decay. But most importantly leaves can become an essential garden resource for free if you gather them and store them for a year, as they break down into leaf-mould creating the perfect mulching material to spread on the garden the following year. I plan to make some chicken wire baskets to store the decomposing leaves in and place them out of sight at the back of the borders. You can shred leaves if you have a shredder to hand and they break down much more quickly.
Environmental impact: Reducing plastic use has been high on our agenda this year (as I hope it has been with you too) and I feel proud of the fact that we have made great inroads by reusing plastic pots, building up stocks of recyclable, terracotta and felt pots. The latter have been perfect for potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes and I plan to expand on the use of these next year. We have ordered bulk bags of peat free compost reducing the plastic bags we bring into the garden and this autumn I will be planning ways we can do to more to minimise the environmental impact of this garden, a responsibility we all share.
Slow garden movement: How often have you found that you slow down when you garden? Embracing the way that you garden and shifting this ethos into the rest of your life is the perfect mantra for improving your wellbeing. Make time for your gardening/accessing greenspaces, seek out wildlife in them, grow things, share in its bounty and you will feel all the better for it!
To read more about embracing the more relaxing moments September brings, it’s well worth visiting Slow Gardening: What It Means and How to Grow Slow too.
Here’s to subtle September shifts and staying cosy as we potter around our plots!