Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Walled Kitchen Garden & Orchard
September: (septem, Latin for 7) the seventh month in the Julian or Roman calendar, established in the reign of Julius Caesar. Now there is an ‘r’ in the month, the carnivores can enjoy a slice of Gloucester Old Spot, or even a pot rabbit or two. The Robin will stake its territory in the second week of September, and just to be cheerful lots of nettles and acorns, plus Robins, tell of a hard winter to come, so country lore says.
I made seed tray sowings of Lettuce Arctic King and Marvel of 4 Seasons, together with Spinach. Kale and other autumn and winter crops were being planted out in the Kitchen Garden, as well as intense harvesting of vegetable bounty.
Earlier in the day dewdrops sparkled on the Asparagus ferns, and looked magical. A recent crossword clue stated “very common in gardens at this time of year – interlaced threads of viscous fluid that harden on exposure to air, created by an arachnoid”. These were also visible; it was interesting to note that some spiders hide in foliage with their foot on a vibration detection thread, others in vertical webs sit right in the middle, whilst others with horizontal webs hang upside down underneath them. “If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive”.
September 21 is known as St Matthew’s Day and it is associated with cool nights. This is probably due to its proximity to the autumn equinox, this year on 22 September. The name ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). For a short period we have equal lengths of day and night. “Dew on the grass, fine weather will come to pass.” After a cold spell the warm weather is back.
Soon we shall have to stop harvesting blackberries: by the Quarter Day in fact as they become bitter with the lower temperatures and only fit for the birds. It is said that whichever direction the wind blows from on the Quarter Days (21 Mar, 24 Jun, 29 Sep, and 21 Dec) the wind will remain predominantly there for 90 days.
October: Eighth month (octo, Latin for 8) in the Julian (Roman) calendar. The Gregorian calendar instituted by Pope Gregory XIII established January as the first month of the year. Just time to plant a late crop of winter brassicas, but first the weeds which have known no bounds in the warm weather have to be hoed off.
Because of the bounteous crops of apples this year two of us spent ten entire Tuesdays windfall gathering; by the end of the day the fumes from the fermenting windfalls were quite heady! The rest of the team were busy picking fruit off the trees for our annual Apple Tasting Day. The Stables Restaurant and the new Gardener’s Cottage Tea Rooms put the remainder of the picked fruit to good use.
The Autumn colours of the tiered Acers in the Japanese Garden are at their best and much appreciated by our Oriental visitors as well as the indigenous ones. The Stags in the Park are getting more vocal as the rut begins. Buzzards are ‘mewing’ more. The flocks of geese are more noticeable now; they fly to and from the Mere in the Parkland and their feeding grounds in a north/south direction. They must have chatted to Air Traffic Control at the nearby Manchester Airport, as the aircraft fly east/west, so each keeps clear of the other’s flight-paths. Our summer migrants (swifts & swallows) have begun their long journey to warmer climes and the little birds like the Robin are coming back into the Kitchen Garden looking for worms and insects. Molehills have been spotted near the fruit arches in the centre of the garden, and vole holes. The field mice will have made neat piles of empty pea pods under the pea plants, their subterfuge only becoming apparent as the haulms are cleared.
Onions dried in the Fig Houses were transferred to the Loft; at least 120 pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colours were washed and placed in the Support Building passageway, on shelves opposite the fruit storage racks, and on display in the Tomato House. A spooky Halloween Trail has been created for the half-term holidays.
Pruning of the soft fruit begins in earnest, as does the weeding. St Jude sent a hurricane to the south of the UK, but spared the North West, apart from much rain.