The last Ukrainian sunflower stands solo. Single-stemmed multi-headed with still brilliant yellow blooms. Its siblings are in the compost now, many of the seedheads saved. Others were mildewed after weeks of heavy rain.
The Painted Mountain and Mexican corn stalks have been lifted, too. Beautiful fuzzy purple stems, once twice the height of us are chopped now, on top of the compost heap. We’ll leave them to dry and die and shred them in the spring. The cobs though – whisper it – were disappointing. It’s likely we planted them late. We will try again next year.
The large Varanasi old-school marigolds are just about hanging on. Drooping elegantly. Howard is saving some of the late ildkongen seedlings. He will pot them, protect them, give them light and warmth. I will start sorting through bags and bowls of the remaining seed we saved. Henri is getting antsy.
The cleared plot patches have been raked, hoed and replanted from the seedling rows. A chessboard of hope and baby plants. Small Treviso chicories are spaced in squares with late Bear Necessities and Madley kales from Brown Envelope Seed. Green clumps of over-wintering chervil alternate with Purple Frills mustard. We will dose them with late seaweed feed when the incessant rain slows.
Fingers crossed against marauding pigeons. As yet they are concentrating on shredding nets on our neighbours’ summer brassicas. They seem to be leaving the once-battered chard alone. It is heartening to see the recovery. Rounded leaves again stand tall. I replant baby ruby chard at the bottom of the plot where the uprooted sunflowers were.
This is early-morning work. Before-breakfast gardening when the allotments are empty. Before Howard takes Otto for a walk on the Heath. Before my bun run heading home. We’ll share a few leaves of chard and crimson chicory, late stubborn flowers. The plot will slow. The days will shorten. Winter is here.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com
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