It was a big summer; with big sunshine and big temperatures and a big drought that will live big in the memory. And there you have it, past tense. A big summer it was; but now summer into autumn has slipped and this year’s transition is sudden and tangible.
September, that great misplaced misnomer of the calendar year, tripping softly off the tongue, ripening memories of the big summer that was , safe that come the darker days September will fete us something to remember. And so we’ll gather and collect, and store-up, and we’ll treasure the harvest just as we’ll harvest the treasures from the big summer that was, and mindful that just as every gardener and grower begins the process of reaping and gathering, nature herself actually begins the cycle again, for come September nature begins sowing again, scattering her seeds abroad, and therein next summer is already sown…
January 2017 saw monsterinthecorner begin the arduous task of relocating all stock and holding to a new allotment plot some five miles away from its established site. We speculated then what the coming year would bring, and whether we would be capable of rising to the challenges of starting again from scratch on a new plot, in the depths of winter. We postulated then that the monster would be completely transformed by the same time next year, and that we would relish the transformative process and our part in it. Yet little did we realize just how much we could, and eventually would, achieve.
One of the very early postings from our new stomping ground last January was titled By This Time Next Year … So, by way of follow-up the best we can say is that That Time is now… We could have –indeed should have– posted many more updates during last year, but as you’ll appreciate we got busy doing as we had quite a lot to do, and it was no mean task to cultivate a totally neglected and overgrown large allotment into a prize winning kitchen garden plot, and to do so in the space of 25-30 weeks. We had many hours of wonderful fun; we’ve made some wonderful new friends and acquaintances, and mostly we learned to relearn all we formerly thought we knew about allotmenteering.
Of course, as the overall prize winning allotment last year monsterinthecorner has, (as many of our new neighbours are constantly and good-humouredly reminding us) set the standard not only for others, but also for ourselves in the seasons and years ahead. And who knows? with our template now well and truly settled after a frenetic first year, perhaps ( just perhaps) we’ll have a little more time to cultivate here as well.
Crisp, clean and crystal clear, and conjured from unobstructed air the first frost of this winter season greeted all worm catchers yesterday morning. Cool and bright and star-shiny sheer the winter’s first offering of season’s secret ministry glossed most low lying grassy areas and hardened exposed shallow pools. Though our met service had forecast frost, this was no sharp event and certainly no f# affair with much of the crystalline magic dissipating with the first rays of early sun. The cool air exposed all al fresco breaths in bamboozled bewilderment, and as though having seen it all before car windscreens glared with vague subfusc opalescence, awaiting intervention with kettle or pot to clear their view to the chill.
Last winter’s first frost did not occur till quite late in the season; with November and December both recording above LTA (Long Term Average) temperatures the first frost of last winter did not settle till 5th January this year. So, we’ve had the first frost of last winter and the first frost of this winter ten months apart and in the same calendar year. This year it seems winter is settling in early: we’ve covered and cleared what we needed to, and we’ve started to harvest and use the autumn and winter stocks of swedes, parsnips and kale. We’ve greased the bolts and oiled the latches, and we’ve stacked and stored the planters and pots. And while still trafficable and feasible to do so we turned sod on that area where we had scattered wildflower seed last spring and summer in the hope that exposure to the harsher elements of the coming season may just tame its unwieldy clumped lumpiness. The constancy of Mrs Dirtdigger’s deadheading drill together with the relatively mild October weather meant we still had some blooms to brighten the monster’s visage on our recent visits, but, we thinks the creeping crystal carpet may have put an end to this. Still, it’s good to feel this early seasonal chill, and ideally our wish would be that this first frost is but a precursor to a winter of some sustained wintry weather; maybe not too much though (mindful to be careful of what one wishes for), but, as most gardeners should have learned, the earthen canvas in which we cultivate our dream performs best after a period of vernalization: rhubarb stools and gooseberry bushes; blackcurrant, apples and pears all benefit from a measured stretch in Mother Nature’s chilling cabinet, and much the same can be said of the early spring bulbs and flowering perennials.
So, just as we here at monsterinthecorner prepare to cover and muffle and wrap our bodies up against the elements of the coming season, our hope would be that the monster itself stays quite cold. And safe in the knowledge that most gardens invariably survive the wintriest of storms, our wish is that our little plot keeps cold, and does not get too warm, for once tender shoots have been top-dressed and strawed, spring’s cheery show creeps best from chilled sod… So, stay chilled, keep cold.