Well the sun kept shining warmly and our crops kept growing strongly all through October - you know things are a bit unusual when you're having lunch al fresco on the day of Halloween! The warmth was climatically suspicious but horticulturally helpful, and the fertile abundance of the season means that we've already been able to meet our yield and sales goals for this year, with hopefully a fair bit of cropping still to go.
The rain finally did come at the beginning of this month and it was bye-bye to the crops of summer. In October we swapped our main polytunnel over from tomatoes and cucumbers to peppery mustard leaves, succulent claytonia, aromatic coriander and the many other components of Nat's diverse winter salad mix. We have also been able to cover and plant up a new polytunnel, which should help us keep up a decent level of salad production over the cold months. That's the theory anyway - the last few days of rain have turned this tunnel into a bit of a swamp so we might need to work on some drainage before this tunnel can be properly productive.
We have also been saving seeds, starting with the easier ones like tomatoes, beans and sunflowers. Seeds are a major cost for us, and we were inspired to start saving more by a weekend workshop in Devon aimed at setting up a Seed Savers' Co-operative in the South West of England. In this country, the processes of growing seeds and growing food have become very divorced from one another, and it would be very difficult for a grower to save all their own seeds. This is partly because some plants need to be isolated from related ones of the same species at flowering time if their seeds are to retain the desired qualities of the variety. However, one of the positives of seed saving is that you can save enough seed for several growers from a relatively small number of plants. So if 10 growers each save 2 varieties of seed and share them, this could mean 20 free seed varieties for all of those growers. Win-win! Check out landworkersalliance.org.uk/south-west-seed-savers-cooperative/ to find out more or get involved.
The forthcoming winter will also present an opportunity for reflection and planning - figuring out which crops and ways of selling produce we want to focus on next year... I'm already looking forward to sowing those first seeds of February!