Friday, 21 October 2011

October harvest: week two

These grapes are small, but oh so delicious.

Little has changed outside. Sunshine is a memory, and the world is grey. We've had a lot of rain, and a powerful storm, followed by a day or two of calm, then another storm. Darkness comes at half past six, dawn at half past seven; the light has gone (though it will get a lot darker in the next ten weeks, leading up to the solstice).

All this means I've had to swallow my delusion and sacrifice most of the tomatoes. All the sickly plants, those with no change of setting more fruit, and any which have been damaged by the weather will have to go - and the enormity of composting sixty plants struck me yesterday (it should yield a lot of good stuff for the spring though). The contents of the grow-bags most of them have lived in over the summer will be spread over the garden, filling new beds, and providing low nutrient, organic conditioning, which should lighten the heavy clay, improve structure, and produce better crops next year. I'll use some for planting tulips in pots, too - I want lots more of them next year.

The temptation is to leave them, because they are still flowering, and most are covered with green fruit. But with no sunshine, mediocre temperatures, and lots of rain, the chances are they will rot on the vine. And Monty Don (my hero) made a good point on Gardeners' World: the space they're taking up could now be better used. A salad or herb crop sown now, especially under cover in the greenhouse, will provide some food over the next few months. The tomatoes, like it or not, will die.

Totals for week 8th-14th October:

10th: 456g tomatoes (comprising 8 'Summer cider' at 155g and 21 'Sub arctic plenty' at 301g)
13th: 3.097kg tomatoes (comprising 1 'German orange strawberry' at 212g, 8 'Super marmande' at 1.090kg, 15 'Cream sausage' at 247g, 25 'Jaune flammée' at 707g, 5 'Great white' at 196g, 5 'Green zebra' at 77g, 9 'Costoluto fiorentino' at 207g, 25 'Sun belle' at 92g, 5 'Black cherry' at 35g, 5 'Snowberry' at 19g, 26 'Gardener's delight' at 136g, 1 'Sub arctic plenty' at 26g, 1 unidentified at 53g), 396g grapes (day total: 3.493kg)
14th: 225g tomatoes (comprising 2 'Jaune flammée' at 141g, 1 'Costoluto fiorentino' at 72g, and 1 'Cream sausage' at 12g).
Total for week: 4.174kg
Year to date total: 33.838kg

So the harvest is heavy, but this is an ending. Much of the fruit has been taken green, to ripen indoors if I do it right. There are still many outdoors, because it's such a big job, and because some plants are simply too healthy-looking to kill yet. The smaller fruits have a chance of ripening naturally before the frosts, if they come late. In any case, I always check the weather forecast, so I can keep an eye on it.

Update: I wrote the preceding paragraphs earlier in the week. By the end of it, I noticed a great many plants with what I can only assume is blight - great patches of stem and leaf brown, shrivelled, and exuding clouds of spores at the lightest touch. It's very late - for the third year I've been paying attention, blight hasn't struck here before mid-autumn - and for that I'm lucky. And in a way, it's good - it means I can no longer afford to be sentimental. The plants must go. (What's interesting is how patchy it is - not just on individual plants, but some plants are still bright green, healthy, and growing, among their withering brethren - varietal resistance?)

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