I’ve been laid-low by some mystery chest-infection-type illness. Bed-bound for a week, I’ve been reflecting on what the veg/garden patch is all for….if I do a cost-benefit analysis of this summer, there’s been quite a lot of heartache and feeling up against it (the result of which is these bastard microbes who seem hell-bent on trying to kill me). So in an effort at balance, I will temporarily ignore all those brambles and slugs and dead sweetpeas, and instead look at what’s been achieved. And with it, I realise that I’m working towards a new goal: the holy-grail of the year-round harvest.
But first, pasta, pizza and ice cream at Verdi’s in Mumbles.
The season has tipped from high- to late-summer, which to me is a relief…life just seems more relaxed in September. The cut flowers are changing too, with the last of the tansy and achillea now finished, and the dahlias coming into their own. There is still life in the cornflower and the cosmos I started in April has not even bloomed yet – SO LATE, I still can’t get over it – and so we have overlap between the romantic whimsical high summer flowers and their showier early autumn cousins.
Back to the year-round harvest. The point of all of this effort must surely be to have something to pick, whether it’s meant for the kitchen or for the vase, for most of the year. It needn’t be a lot – actually it’s better if it isn’t, for a glut is stressful and also requires effort to process. A vase a week. A punnet of berries. Beans for dinner. Kale for minestrone. And so on. So if I take the marker of success as having something of note to harvest at any point in the year, then actually we’re doing pretty well.
Here’s the year-round harvest list:
Jan: Kales, chard
Feb: Kales, chard, narcissi
March: Kales, purple sprouting, narcissi, tulips
April: Purple sprouting, early salads, Tulips
May: Foxglove, lilac, alliums, cow parsley, maybe a few tulips, early salads
June: Foxglove, sweet william, honesty, sweet fennel, cornflower, cosmos, ammi magus, nasturtium, peas or mange tout, redcurrants, rocket. Peonies add to this list in 2022.
July: Lavender, foxgloves, cosmos, cornflower, tansy, marigold, nasturtiums, achillea, teasels, strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, broad beans, maybe stick beans if they ever grow, lettuce. Add in 2022: coneflower, delphinium, lupin, gladioli, echinops. Also I start to receive top-ups from my parents of potatoes, blueberries, tomatoes.
August: Dahlias, marigold, achillea, tansy, sunflowers, strawflower, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, courgette, chard, kales, carrots. Parental top-up of potatoes, blueberries, blackcurrants, tomatoes, sweetcorn, peppers.
September: Dahlias, sunflowers, chrystanthemums, hops, raspberries, courgette, chard, carrots, parsnip, rocket, mustard, kales
October: Chrysanthemum, parsnip, kales, pumpkins, rocket, mustard
November: Kale, parsnips
December: Kale, parsnip
Whenever I look at a year-round list I’m always amazed at just how little there is to eat until about June/July, then there’s about two months of fun, and then we’re back to kale again. The hungry gap must have been SO real before commercial agriculture was invented. Happily for me, I can fill this gap with cut flowers.
What not to grow: I’ve learnt that it’s just not worth the bother on our plot, with the time resources available and the sodding pigeons: sweetpeas, most of the climbing beans, tomatoes (they get blight), fennel (bolts), beetroot and turnips (they don’t seem to enjoy our soil). Far better to focus on the plants that need little intervention and that don’t get eaten.
And with that off my chest, I’m going back to bed.