Now that the harvest is well and truly over, the nights are closing in for another Winter. I find the long winter months quite trying and there is no happier time for me than at the end of March when the clocks return to British Summer Time, and we see life return to the land. It may be the lack of light, when many of us leave for work in the dark and return again after the sun has set. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I have to curtail the time I can spend in my garden. For whatever reason though, there is a bit of me that sinks when I think of how long these months seem compared to those of Summer.
The garden is set such that there isn’t a total dearth of beauty though, keeping a little Winter interest is always a good idea. Be it in the form of some Cornus with its flame coloured stems or even just the spent seed heads of the Achillea, leaving some structure when all else has faded away is one way of keeping it all feeling special. It’s also a nice way to provide habitats for insects, that in turn feed other animals, so don’t cut it all back just yet, it may look dead, but it can still look good. There is a temptation to strip it all back to the bare soil and make it neat again, but there is no need and there can still be a beauty in the retired herbaceous plants, albeit devoid of the summer colour, but no less enjoyable for their structure.
That’s not to say that I don’t like winter, for me this is the perfect time for getting out into the hills and walking in my spare time. I often feel like there is no time for such pleasures so the quiet Winter days are an ideal time to enjoy the outside. There is a lovely quote that says “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”, and at no other time of year is that more apt, unless maybe you find yourself in Spain, in June, with a duffel coat.
Although as I write this in October we’ve had more use for shorts and t-shirts than a thick sweater. As we have very little snow here in the south west, I often take a trip to somewhere like North Wales in search of some. You can be pretty certain that in a month or so, when you get to 900M up Snowdon, you find something akin to snow, if you’re lucky you’ll have a blizzard, and that is when the Winter blues get well and truly blown away. Get to the top and it’ll be frozen block of ice, although with the current climate, even that pleasure maybe something that’ll I’ll relish for not too much longer.
The allotments are also now getting stripped back and prepared for another year, the last cut of the grass has been done and all of the pumpkin removed. Most of the beds are getting covered, either with green or well rotted manure and a light proof membrane. This will make sure that it’s all in perfect condition to kick off again next year. Although it’s getting too late to plant any hardy annuals as there isn’t time for them to germinate and grow at all, there are a few things like broad beans that will quite happily sidle through the cold months, and give you a good head start next year. When the beans are planted, here are November’s tasks to keep you busy.