• People in Helmsley Walled Garden

September 2019 – Bringing in the Harvest

It has been something of a topsy-turvey summer with the weather cracking the flags one minute and rain of positively Biblical proportions the next. I’ve noticed a big difference in our apple crop this year. There are a lot less for a start.

One reason for that is last year was a bumper crop and trees will look after themselves by limiting the number of fruit they bear in order not to exhaust themselves and to conserve energy for the following year. Called biennial bearing it’s not an unusual sight but I think this year has been exacerbated by the cold, wet snap we had just as the trees blossomed. It meant pollinators weren’t out and about so much. This was followed by an unseasonal warm and dry spell which has resulted in much smaller fruits. Worcester Pearmain, normally a decent sized fruit has got tiny apples this year. More like the size of Spartan only not quite so crimson in colour.

So it has made cropping from our Kitchen Garden a bit interesting. But we are picking every day and I have never made so many courgette and lime cakes so I guess courgettes are cropping as usual.

I love this time of year when the quality of the light changes as summer draw towards its close and we pick tomatoes, aubergines, chillies, herbs and salad leaves from the Salad House and beans, courgettes, sweetcorn and potatoes out in the Kitchen Garden. There does seem to be a healthy crop of plums and damsons and we’ll be starting to pick autumn raspberries very soon.

I grew up in a small seaside town in the north west and I don’t think I truly appreciated harvest time then. Harvest Festival at school was very much a tin of spaghetti or fruit and although we sang the hymn We Plough the Fields and Scatter, it didn’t have any resonance for me. Now I can see and hear the combines working late into the night from my house. Everyone works till all hours to bring the harvest in when the weather is good and frets when it rains. It makes me appreciate all the hours of work that have gone into growing the wheat for my bread and the fruit and vegetables for my dinner amongst many other things.

But of course it doesn’t stop with harvest for farmer or gardener. I’m thinking now about what seeds I will need for the Salad House next year and I will be talking to Mollie who makes all the delicious food in The Vine House Café about what she would like me to produce for her menus. I’ll be taking the opportunity once we close to put heart into soil that has been busy all season by adding organic matter and a helping of manure.

Likewise in the Kitchen Garden, Laura is planning her crop rotation, which beds to manure and obviously planting things like garlic for next year. The colder months are the perfect time to drool over seed catalogues and a lot of that goes on here I can tell you.

But we only have five acres and twenty four hours in a day so common sense must prevail. We really can’t grow five different types of carrot and although there are many lovely salad leaves to choose from, growing two different kinds of rocket is silly when I could grow Mizuna, mustard, chard, spinach not to mention, coriander, dill, flat and curly parsley, basil and so on.

So we may slow down a little but we won’t be stopping as summer ends. Come and watch our progress and enjoy your garden.

Tricia Harris September 2019