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Reap What You Sow

Autumn is the time to reap your harvest. It’s the time when your hard work is paid off – and you can make a start for next season, no matter how lax you’ve been.

This year, the garden has offered up rosemary, chives, thyme, marjoram and and bay in abundance – most still flourishing. The twice-fruiting raspberries gave two generous crops, which seemed to run concurrently from July until this week. Only now are  the fruit starting to look bedraggled on the vine, either over-ripe or marauded by slugs and snails. The wild strawberries are offering up a second, unexpected fruiting. And all of this has happened after a summer of neglect – one of the advantages of choosing low-maintenance fruit and herbs.

Sometimes, life gets in the way of gardening: in this case, my health kept me indoors – hence the lack of photos. But now, as the nights draw in, my energy levels are allowing me to tend it again. It is mostly a case of cutting back old leaves, getting rid of anything that looks diseased, and weeding.

Weeding at this time of year offers more satisfaction than summer weeding, bringing with it a greater chance that the weeds will not return.  Dandelions are a problem, their thick roots making them prone to survive against all odds. Daily returns to the place of the worst culprits help ensure nothing is left growing: boiling water will be my next step, once I’ve removed all I can see.

I have bolstered my meagre harvest with blackberries from countryside walks, but have only spotted the occasional mushroom. As a relatively new forager, I would be unlikely to collect them unless I was with someone who knew their stuff, but have fond memories of an afternoon spent mushroom-hunting with someone who did.

Now is a great time to tend your compost heap, checking its progress and balancing it with woody twigs, paper or kitchen scraps as required.  It’s a good idea to dig over your soil before it gets too wet as otherwise you can damage its structure, and affect drainage. It’s also a good time to improve your soil: simply spread compost or manure over your soil (after weeding and digging over as appropriate) and the worms will do the rest.

Protecting your plants from the frost will help keep them safe as winter creeps in. After removing any dead leaves, simply pile straw around them. This will help protect them from slugs and snails too, and will also rot into the soil over the winter. You can use other mulches including wood chippings and seaweed, or simply compost, depending on what you have easy access to.

Cutting things back offers a great mindful escape – and the garden always looks refreshed after an autumnal tending. Better yet, it will help keep any herbs thriving and encourage new growth in the Spring.

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