Replenishing, Raking, and Resting
With sunlight at ever more of a premium, and as the days become colder and wetter, October is largely marked by jobs that begin to tidy away the previous season and others that look ahead to the next.
In our newly re-covered large polytunnel it’s time to clear the summer’s tomato and cucumber plants that have finally run out of steam, give the beds a good digging over and replenish the exhausted compost. We usually plant them up with various salad leaf crops which extend our supply beyond those grown outside. As the first frosts approach, we’ll make room to bring inside and store tender plants like dahlias and cannas for the winter. We’ll also sow some sweet pea seeds now, to give them a head start next spring, hoping they survive the winter under cover without any additional heat.
Outside, the leaves are turning colour into their brown, orange, red and yellow shades of autumn. As they begin to fall, it’s a particularly busy time for our volunteers as they take out the rakes and collect them all up. We have a large leaf bin separate from the other compost heaps to put them in. There they break down over a year or two to make particularly nutritious leaf mould, which in turn provides beneficial and attractive mulch for the ferns in our woodland beds and elsewhere around the garden.
The biennial wallflowers and sweet Williams that we sowed in drills back in August have now grown into sturdy young plants. They can be planted out in their flowering positions for next spring. Remember though, if you’re planning to mix them with tulips to leave room for the bulbs to go in next month.
Given that it’s Halloween season, what’s more comforting than a hearty pumpkin risotto.
500g of pumpkin, peeled and cut into fine cubes
A pinch of salt
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
260g risotto rice
600ml vegetable stock
2tbsp double cream
1tbsp unsalted butter
1tsp balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
60g parmesan cheese
A dozen sage leaves
Simmer the pumpkin in a saucepan of water with a pinch of salt until tender.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until softened.
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is translucent.
Add 200ml of the stock and cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
Add 100ml more stock and cook, stirring, until mostly absorbed.
Repeat once. Add pumpkin and stir to combine.
Gradually, add the remaining stock, stirring until each addition is mostly absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender yet still slightly firm to the bite.
Stir in cream, butter, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Fry the sage leaves until crisp.
Divide the risotto among bowls.
Top with grated parmesan and a sage leaf or two.
Serve and enjoy!