Growing Vegetables #7: Winding Down
The first signs of autumn – the browning of the leaves and a slight chill in the air – used to herald the end of fun and relaxation and a return to the grindstone of school or college. Mind and body were refreshed from summer adventures and pockets were heavier from summer jobs. It was time again to knuckle down to some serious work.
The exact opposite is now true for me. Now I look forward to the shortening days and cooler air not because I don’t love summer, but because summer is hard bloody work. My vegetable planning and planting began back in February, when I started sowing my greenhouse plants and selecting seeds for my main veg plot. The serious work began in early May, when the greenhouse seedlings were planted out and I started to prepare my new, enlarged outdoor plot.
This year I was determined to grow plenty of our favourite vegetables, particularly those that are expensive to buy here in Lithuania. Basic crops like carrots, beetroot and white cabbage are widely available and often very cheap, so last year I grew very little of these. However, as I had a bigger space available this year, I included a few varieties of beetroot and carrots so I could enjoy fresh, organic vegetables. I selected different coloured beets for variety of colour. All of my root vegetables did really well. We have been eating them fresh for about a month and will continue to do so until frost dictates that we lift them and store them carefully in our shed, covered to keep away the worst of the cold. Provided they don’t get badly frost-bitten there should be enough to last the winter.
After a weak start my cauliflower and broccoli came on strong. These now occupy the bulk of the space in my new freezer, along with French beans, bell peppers and a selection of berries. While it looks like a lot of food for two people, we would happily eat both broccoli and cauliflower twice a week, so I reckon it’s just enough (if even enough) to see us through to next year without having to buy any of these particular vegetables.
Like most people I’ve spoken to, my polytunnel was hit by a fungus infection that seriously impacted my cucumber crop. This seems to have happened both in Ireland and in Lithuania, so it might have been something in the air. While the infection did spread to my bell peppers and tomatoes, the impact was mainly aesthetical and both cropped well. I made an intensely flavourful sauce with the bulk of the tomatoes and froze it in portions. Laced with garlic and red wine it will form the base for soups, stews, pasta dishes and pizza sauce. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more but I’m quite happy with what I got.
As always, I had fun with bugs and critters. My bug spray just stopped working in early August and I got eaten alive. I’m not sure if it’s my blood type or the fact that I didn’t grow up being bitten by these particular insects, but they affect me badly. They swell enormously and itchy badly for several days. Arūnas tells me they like me because I’m sweet (awwww!) but the truth is I use no chemicals in the garden and very few on me, so there may be some truth in his flattery. My broccoli and cauliflower did get hit by cabbage caterpillars, but it was mainly the leaves that were affected. That said, I found quite a few of them when I was prepping the veg for the freezer!
After a busy season things are now, finally, winding down. I’ll collect a few more apples for juice and maybe some rowanberries for jelly to accompany the coming season’s venison. I’ll keep an eye on the frost and lift the carrots and beets when the time is right. Other than that, I’m finally free for other pastimes – some photography, cooking and my much-neglected blog. I won’t quite be hibernating, but I’m hoping the pace will be a little slower. And I’m looking forward to that.