A last-minute planting spree to hold back the tide of autumn | Gardening advice


So, the plot is finally cleared and ready-ish for autumn. I resisted as long as I could – for which read the fag-end of July. I had become obsessed with summer’s almost feral growth. Left to its devices while I was away, it had a sprawling, falling beauty. But I needed room for two trays of Italian chicories (many more than 60 plants, ie, more than anyone would eat). Without action, the sprawl would soon die off and summer’s end would also mean the end of our growing year.

I restocked one set of the pea poles with beans and peas (hedging my bets). The other I trained with climbing nasturtium. I let the orache spike though and topped it with a giant bunch of cut coriander for the seeds to dry. We planted late corn. I went around on early mornings obsessively filling in the gaps in my new, more ordered, more elegant space. I ordered new seed: ‘Fordhook Giant’, a heritage, thick-stemmed Swiss chard, adding ruby chard and a red pak choi (there wasn’t room, but I find it hard to break bad habits), land cress, more chicory, corn salad. I sowed more calendula and nasturtium, telling myself they would get ahead for spring if they didn’t flower now (nonsensical, of course). I scattered more red burgundy amaranth seed, because why not? I knew I was likely too late. The light was already weaker in my early mornings. Dew and an occasional coolness spurred me ever on. I was a King Canute of growing, holding back the autumn tide.

I had a sudden rush of sowing beetroot, as much for its leaves as the beets: ‘Golden Burpees’, an Egyptian red; and candy-striped ‘Chioggia’ in a few short rows. I stubbornly sowed dill as it hasn’t much worked this year. I teased the morning glory around the old pea sticks. We will have food. We will have colour. There will be pride before the fall.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com

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