Weekly Column- Nov 21st
It’s been a thoroughly miserable few weeks of weather and I have to admit that I’ve been spending very little time in the vegetable patch. The days are too short now for pre or post-work GIYing, and recent weekends have also been a washout. So, the only visits to the veg patch of late have been rain-soaked hit-and-runs to grab some grub for the dinner. Thankfully there’s plenty of veg still in the ground to harvest - carrots, leeks, fennel, turnips, celeriac, parnips, oriental greens, perpetual spinach, beetroot and more. As I’ve looked glumly from the house at the sodden garden, it’s been playing on my mind that it’s high time I got the beds in the veg patch covered down for the winter. The soil in beds that have been cleared of vegetables are vulnerable to inclement weather – heavy rain can make the soil waterlogged and wash away remaining nutrients. So, last Sunday I managed to find a few hours where it wasn’t raining so I could get some much needed work done. I’ve started the process of covering bare beds down – this will continue right through the winter as more and more bed space gets cleared of veg. In my veg patch a winter ‘cover’ can take the form of black plastic or a covering of organic matter (e.g. seaweed, compost or farmyward manure). Sometimes if I am feeling really organised, I will put a layer of organic matter and then cover it with black plastic. The plastic serves a number of purposes: keeping the weather off the beds, keeping them warm and dry and killing off any weeds (which will return their nutrients to the soil as they die off). I took out the runner and climbing French bean plants (and their frame) and the sweetcorn plants, both of which are finished at this stage. (It’s worth noting that in the GIY Market Garden, Dermot and Eimear are still harvesting climbing french beans from the polytunnel). I also lifted the last of the courgette plants and put them on the compost heap. They have served us well this year – we have been eating courgettes since July and each plant has produced up to 30 courgettes. Alas the courgette glut is over for another year (though many of them live on in pickles and chutneys). When I sowed my garlic and overwintering onions in late October, I put a fleece cover over them to stop birds picking them out of the soil before they had a chance to take root. They are well established at this stage, so I took the fleece off. Later than planned, I also sowed over-wintering broad beans (variety aquadulce claudia) in two rows, (45cm apart and 15cm apart in the rows). All going well, these beans will be ready to eat around May of next year.