Winter arrived in the Midlife Garden with a vengeance in December. It reminded me that I really should have been putting everything to bed for the fallow season, while planting and prepping stuff for the early spring risers. But as often happens, I left it to the last minute and missed the opportunity to plant up pots with bulbs or get early broad beans in and all those other jobs that would have potentially borne fruit in the spring.
I did belatedly harvest the peppers from the greenhouse, albeit after the frost had got them, so they were consigned to the production of some murky looking chilli jam. As usual, I lost last year’s award-winning recipe but I found it, shortly after I had got my jam on the boil, using a different recipe sourced from the internet. Still, it does not taste too bad – a little milder and darker in colour than the Red-Hot version of yesteryear, but it will do.
Outside, my main preoccupation has been sweeping and collecting leaves. The 300-year-old oak over the road has deposited the majority of its leaf litter in our back garden but I have been more organised on this front than in the past. Inspired by the maxim “What would Monty Do?” I collected and mowed them to break them up. I have put them in dumpy bags, which should allow the rain in to keep them damp and enable them to break down to produce good leaf mould for the new season. Last year I did not chop up the leaves with a mower, so even now they remained whole, pressed neatly in layers as if taken from an 18th century botanist’s collection. I mowed them and added them to the 2022 vintage.
With all this mulching and raking I became a little obsessed about collecting leaves pondering collecting more from around the lanes, but after the frosts of early mid-December, we got the deluge, which has put a dampener on my efforts.
Another job a did manage was to mulch the raised beds with cardboard, which should keep the weeds down ready for spring. I had been late in planting my autumn garlic (which I left until November), so planted them through the cardboard. They had the usual binary choice that Mrs B always suggests plants have: to live or to die. Despite rain, frost and more rain they miraculously they chose the latter and I was pleased to see plenty of sharp shoots poking up anaemically through the dark turf and cardboard yesterday. Nature finds a way.