October, 3rd Week - Autumn-Sown Broad Beans And Sunday Feasts!
Dirty Nails writes from personal experience, having supplied his family of four over the years with enough fresh produce to eat their fill. His book combines his love of gardening with the natural pleasures of being outdoors and 'in amongst it'. The author seeks to de-mystify the art of kitchen and allotment gardening, making the thrills, spills, triumphs and tribulations accessible to all-comers, whatever their level of gardening experience.
AUTUMN-SOWN BROAD BEANS AND SUNDAY FEASTS!
This week Dirty Nails has been planting broad beans. Broads sown now come to fruition before a March planting. There are two big advantages to this. First, the more advanced autumn sowing is rarely attacked in late spring by broad bean Enemy Number One, the blackfly, because it has passed the vulnerable stage when these pests are on the loose. Secondly, the broad bean season is advanced by two or three weeks.
Several varieties of broad will over-winter quite happily, but Aquadulce is a particularly reliable and early cropper.
If the winter turns very cold then they will appreciate protection via a horticultural fleece. Dirty Nails will be keeping his fingers crossed for a delicious and nutritious meal of autumn-sown broads before the end of May.
He prepares the plot first by weeding thoroughly, then digging in some fresh compost and raking level. At this time of year the soil is often quite damp, so he lays down wooden planks adjacent to where he wants to mark his rows, and works from these. The planks spread his body weight, minimising soil compaction, trampling and mess. Dirty Nails marks out the rows with canes and string, allowing 8 inches (20 cm) of space between. The thumbnail-sized beans are simply pressed into the fluffy soil to a depth of 3 inches (7 cm). This is slightly deeper than for spring-sown broads, but the extra snugness helps them to endure the worst of the winter weather. The beans are planted at 6 inch (15 cm) intervals. All being well, they should make a few inches of sturdy growth between now and New Year, then sit tight and wait for the spring rush.
Dirty Nails usually has to loosen his trousers at the end of the week. Sunday is feast day for the family with many winter favourites now on the menu. A lot of work in the veg garden in the coming months will simply involve harvesting what is to be eaten on the day.
NATURAL HISTORY IN THE GARDEN
Hibernating Small Turtoiseshell Butterflies
Lifting parsnips and other root veg for roasting cannot be hurried. Extracting a 1½ foot (60 cm) long scorzonera thong in one piece is a challenge, and an achievement in itself.
Swedes demand to be admired and their heady scent inhaled deeply before being washed, trimmed, peeled and cooked into a mash with spuds from store.
Leeks are in season from now until the end of March. Different varieties are cultivated to mature throughout both autumn and winter. Digging leeks for same-day consumption is a thrill in any weather. Fresh from the ground, they exude the most wonderful aroma. Being outside, trimming the roots and flag from a leek as dusk approaches, is about as good as it gets for Dirty Nails, second only to eating the bounty.