Keats was pretty observant, wasn’t he? Autumn days round here invariable start in a grey mizzle but by the middle of the afternoon, the sun’s out and I’m harvesting a crop of something from the plot. It’s been a good year for Autumn Bliss raspberries; but not as good as last year. It’s been a good year for apples; much better than last year. And it’s been a fantastic year for cut flowers.
You may recall that after last year’s garlic rust and pitiful supply of runner beans, I threw a hissy fit and turned the allotment over to cut flowers. I haven’t regretted it for one moment. I’m still cutting enough for three massive vases every week and my fresh veg comes from the local box scheme. My salads have survived quite happily in containers at home as described here.
Now I’m positively evangelical about the benefits of growing cut flowers. Whereas local seasonal food is the flavour of the month (quite literally) local, seasonal cut flowers are still out in the cold (usually in a large refridgerated container making its way into this country from the other side of the world). Brides still want roses in December and florists can buy cheaper stems from Kenya at the wholesalers than from the flower farm down the road. You can’t find a fragrant bunch of sweet peas for love nor money at the supermarket in July. This is wrong.
I’m told that if you cultivate less than an acre of land – and, let’s face it, most of us do – cut flowers is the most profitable crop. Moreover you can grow them cottage style in your herbaceous borders, chop away at them and they keep on coming. Grow them alongside your veggies and your edible crops will be healthier and more abundant, due to the increase in pollinator activity and better biodiversity of your plot. That’s the science bit.
The romantic bit is that you’ll be able to fill vase after vase with gorgeous blooms well into the Autumn and have enough to share them with all your family,friends and neighbours. I guarantee they’ll give you the kind of welcome you never get when you attempt to dump your courgette glut on them.
But this isn’t the only kind of fruitfulness I’ve been the grateful recipient of this Autumn. Over the past few weeks I’ve been given plants on Freecycle, fruit from neighbours and swapped seeds and cuttings with friends. I’ve received a good few dollops of advice and a packet of red hollyhock seeds from gardening Twitter chums and we have foraged the lanes and woods for blackberries, elderberries, conkers and acorns. Our kitchen windowsill resembles the nature table at my primary school, back in the day.
The most exciting ‘fruiting’ at school has been that my half an hour of ‘extreme’ gardening with a small group of children at lunchtime has become an hour and a quarter of gardening every week with an entire class. I can’t stop smiling about the endless projects and possibilities this opens up. The garden has been resited due to building work and we’re starting from scratch with beds full of nettles and an empty poytunnel. We’ll be blogging about our progress here so if you run a gardening club or class at school and want to join us, you can see what we’re up to and get in touch. It’s a work in progress so bear with us for a week or two and I hope you’ll find it helpful. Sharing ideas and experiences week by week might bear fruit.
There’s still a few days left in September to sow some hardy annuals, start planting your daffodils and enjoy the fruits of the season. The youngest apprentice has been cultivating her photography skills and snapping a few shots. I’ve been posting them up on Twitter as #Septemberviews. We’ll make an album in due course. Why not have a look at what we’ve spotted this month. Join in with your own if you like.
I’m rather partial to Autumn.