Tuesday, 3 January 2017

November 2016 A few surprises lurking in the undergrowth

We usually gather in the remains of the summer and early autumn annual crops by the end of October at the latest but leave the squash and courgette foliage for a few weeks more. This is mainly to provide some continuing ground cover while we sort out an overwinter mulch for the beds. There are generally a few surprises lurking in the undergrowth, and this year's prize goes to a queen squash that was hidden amongst the branches of the cherry plum tree. Not exactly a monster but a respectable 482g. 

Elsewhere and at ground level we uncovered a small patch of carrots and beetroot. This was at the bottom of the main part of the garden and an area that has only just been brought back into cultivation after the removal of the three sycamore trees from the other side of our boundary. This part of our zone 2/3 has not been used for about 4 years because of the shade from the trees and the mass of tree roots that were close to the surface of the ground. 

We are steadily building up the soil level with compost and mulch and earlier this year I scattered some leftover carrot and beetroot seeds at random over the ground. Leaves from a nearby squash in a pot quickly covered the ground and I forgot about them. There were enough for a meal and it shows that the soil is becoming productive again. 

The main crops at this time of year are swiss chard, curly kale and cavolo nero. The brussels are maturing nicely and we should have enough for Christmas and the New Year, with a second variety due to come to maturity later in January. 

Indoors, we were drying the tea bags and soil samples that had been retrieved from the garden and preparing them for despatch to the Tea Bag Index project at the University of Reading. The project aims to measure the rate of decomposition of organic material in garden soils across the UK. 

Details of the project can be found on the TBI website and Facebook.

An interesting alternative to the Tea Bag Index has been tried on pastures in South Dakota. See Tighty Whities Can Tell You About Your Soil Health « On Pasture for details :-) 

November 2016: Inventory of chutneys, jams, jellies and pickles

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