Shelves of bottled preserves

Most of November has been wet and windy so time in the garden has been limited. The holly tree and the hedge rows of holly and hawthorne are loaded with berries, as are the berberis and cotoneaster, and we are wondering how long they will last before the birds have eaten them all. Usually only a matter of weeks so by the time the ice and snow arrives there is little left. 

Holly tree

As we have been tidying the beds, preparing them for next year and generally tidying up in the garden and greenhouse we have been followed around by an opportunistic robin. It occasionally flies into the greenhouse; it checks out the empty pots, dodges around on the beds where we have been harvesting and weeding and even pokes around in the wheelbarrow as we load it ready to go to the compost heap. I've tried unsuccessfully to take photos, but it seems to know. It pauses just long enough for me to get my phone but just as I navigate with my cold fingers to the camera app, it darts off to make another cute pose elsewhere. It seems to know. It doesn't want to star in my Christmas cards.

This week we cleaned out the greenhouse and started to work on the water butts which need new supports before we can use them again for next year.  All the gardening programmes make cleaning the greenhouse look easy! If only. It's clean and disinfected now but the windows are not gleaming and falling leaves began littering the top almost as soon as we'd finished. No doubt they will end up in the guttering following the next heavy rain.

Cleaning greenhouse

Autumn sown broad beans, peas and spring onion are making good progress, some under glass others now under cloches to keep off the birds and the still occasional overnight frosts. Almost all the onion sets I planted last month have sprouted but only one type of garlic - this year I planted three varieties. I'm hoping the difference in variety accounts for the differential development, but it is only the second time I've planted garlic sets so I have no experience to guide me.

Keeping the slugs off the brassicas has been a full time job, hunting through the leaves and pulling off the tiny slugs. They didn't do much damage to the more advanced winter crop but it's been a battle to save some of the smaller spring greens even though the plants were surrounded with a crust of slug repellant.

I have ordered seed potatoes again. Despite finding the last harvest disappointing in terms of quantity they have lasted us for a long time and they are quite delicious. My big problem is that I have no idea where I will be able to plant them. Of my seven beds only two will be free when the potatoes are due to be planted and they are earmarked for general root veg (beetroot, parsnips, celeriac etc) and the other for french and runner beans all of which will need to be sown before the potatoes will be harvested.

The winter kale (Reflex) is ready to harvest and indeed we have already eaten some; the cabbage (tundra) is developing good hearts and some is ready to harvest; the cauliflower (Amsterdam) has lots of leaves but no flower yet. I tried to ferment some of the kale but was unsuccessful despite following what was claimed to be a foolproof recipe. Well maybe it was initially successful but I forgot it and left it too long. Fortunately our Autumn production line bottling, freezing, pickling and jam making was highly productive.

My family may be getting a jar of homemade jam or chutney plus a fresh cabbage for Christmas this year.