BAGGED AND BOTTLED
Kitchen Garden|September 2021
For Stephanie Hafferty September is about preserving the harvest for winter use but also encouraging biodiversity in the garden
Stephanie Hafferty

Heading into the vegetable garden on a September morning, you can feel the approaching autumn with all of your senses. A gentle mist greets the rising sun. All around there is a busy urgency as the wild creatures prepare to leave for warmer shores, or build up their stores for the winter. The fragrance of autumn is on the air: clear, cold, crisp.

This is an incredibly busy time; I am also storing for the months ahead. It’s hard work, but there is much satisfaction in preserving, drying, bottling, curing and freezing home-grown and foraged produce. Much of the soft fruit is weighed, bagged and labelled, then frozen for jam making in the winter when things are quieter. The fragrance of bubbling fruit in the kitchen on a dark January day is gorgeous.

In the poly-tunnel, I am gradually clearing summer crops as they finish, and planting or sowing salads, herbs, brassicas, carrots, spring onions and Florence fennel.

This gives the plants time to establish before the days become very short and cool, and will provide harvests right through until May next year.

ENCOURAGING WILDLIFE

Working with nature is a key part of my growing, so I make sure that some of my home-grown harvests are left for wildlife to eat and store, and I make plenty of cosy places for them to hibernate in. This makes sure that the biodiversity of my garden is secure, and that the beneficial predators which help to keep everything in balance here will survive the winter.

A simple way of doing this is to not be too tidy and let things die back naturally, such as the Verbena bonariensis I grew at the allotment between my plot and John’s, my neighbour’s. The snug, twiggy base of the plant provides overwintering accommodation for many insects including ladybirds. It is amazing how many will stay there and, in the spring, the allotment was covered with romantic ladybirds falling in love! Their larvae eat an extraordinary number of aphids.

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