That's the hard work in the garden that will make a difference next year. For me, in a new garden, one of this year's biggest autumn and winter tasks will be making something of our steep veg plot. On a limited budget, we've decided that the best solution is to make two 45 degree slopes to divide up the area of the veg plot into three (sort of) flat areas.
This afternoon I removed the landscaping fabric on the middle section that I haven't used yet and began the earth-moving. Admittedly I spent more time sitting around drinking tea and admiring the view - I was frightened! But I've started.
I'm thinking that each 45 degree slope (which will not be for vegetables, but only to form the flattish areas for growing them) will be covered with a long piece of landscaping fabric and that I'll plant lavender through the fabric.
This year I attempted to ignore vegetables (I am a bit of a flower obsessive), but as a vegetarian it was a no-win situation. I missed so much of what I enjoyed in the kitchen last year. And thinking about what to prepare for my dinner tonight was a timely reminder of how important our veg patch is.
On the menu is a delicious pumpkin and cashew nut curry (also including leeks), courtesy of someone who is now one of my Holy Trinity of vegetarian cookbook authors. I wouldn't be without the books of Rose Elliott and those that feature delights from London's Crank's restaurant of the 70s and 80s. But Dennis Cotter (who is feeding me tonight) is something else. An ex-Cranks man who has set up a restaurant in Cork - I just love Paradiso Seasons, from which my pumpkin curry recipe is taken. I write notes under each recipe as I try them - and usually it's just 'yum, yum'. Sometimes he sends me a bit too far afield in search of the odd, difficult ingredient, but usually when I taste the dish, I know it has been worth it.
With the pumpkins I am eating a lovely Nepalese greens dish (also curried, using kale and broccoli leaves), taken from Oxfam's The World in Your Kitchen. I've found my driving force for earth-moving on those slopes! Even with no effort - and loads of neglect - all of the vegetables in this night's meal have come from the garden.
So much inspiration on the web these days! If you are growing pumpkins, have a look at these suggestions for using pumpkin seeds, courtesy of Garden Betty's 'Diary of a Dirty Girl'.
More hard work for the winter (see pics below):
1. Laying some paving in the poor old Rose Walk . There are no baby box to define the lovely straight path now, and I don't want to carry on the time-consuming task of weeding the path to remove all the annual grasses - and the other things that love to self-sow there. (Docks, are you with me? Your time is up!).
2. Getting rid of all our rubbish. Well, at least it's (almost) in one place after months of toil.
3. Planting out the coloured-stemmed willows. Have you read The Borrowers by Mary Norton? Normally I do a little plan on the computer of where I've put things. Didn't do this with the willows. I've learnt my lesson because the garden 'borrowers' have had two of the labels. Processes of deduction have saved the day - in the picture is Salix alba 'Chermesina Yelverton', but I'm pleased to see that a Salix daphnoides cultivar ('Continental Purple') is also doing well, since I love the subtle grey bloom on the stems of this willow. Willows are a beautiful and interesting choice for an area that is occasionally flooded.
I have three very old currant bushes (red and black) that are growing on the slopes down to the Long Border. I want to make a soft fruit garden on the final slope before the Orchard and so I was taking cuttings this afternoon. They are 8-9 inches long, half-buried in my cold frame (that has no cover - some cold frame!).
The currants are important because I eat a lot of muesli and they are a delicious fresh addition to a dried cereal. They also contribute to a traditional apero (pre-dinner drink) in this part of France: a white Burgundy wine (usually Aligote) with a smidgeon of crème de cassis added (made from blackcurrants). You can tell my taste buds have been driving me wild today.
I planted out five hellebores in spring ( a special offer from Hayloft Plants who - thank you! - deliver to France). All the 'Pretty Ellens', in pink, purple, white and red (as well as a H. niger 'Praecox). Since I've always had so much to look at in my previous gardens, I'd never noticed how much growth hellebores put on in the autumn.