October 2021

With the passing of the equinox, the following day in fact, I noticed something to chill the blood. It would seem that from the 23rd of September there is a new television channel that will show 24 hour a day non-stop Christmas films!

Also with the passing of the equinox it looks as though any decent weather for this year must be regarded as a bonus. Prue and I are getting in the last of this season’s crops. All the spuds are out and it only remains to level the beds. My potato beds always resemble a bombsite after harvesting, it’s the only way to get every last spud out of the ground and avoid rogue plants next year. Nevertheless it’s a task at which I always fail. Growing spuds in our much smaller garden will be an absolute no-no; shame, not having to do all that heavy work. The thing is, what to do with all the spare time? I thought I might take up a musical instrument: the tuba, perhaps?

But I regret to say the potatoes weren’t up to their usual standard. The foliage was extremely lush, but the quality of the spuds was not that good. Most of them were scabby and even the taste seemed not up to the usual quality. Other things have been a little strange this year: we have had virtually no apples – on any of our trees. The fruit formed and then dropped off when the size of grapes. My friend Richard tells me the oak trees have had very few acorns. He normally has to clear them up to stop the donkeys eating them, but this year didn’t need to. On the other hand, our chestnut tree produced its normal bumper crop, all perfect, except none of the conkers got around to falling on the ground. They were picked by the squirrels, taken to a variety of locations, shelled, and then buried. We even had a plant pot with two conkers perfectly planted just below the surface. This is not something we have ever noticed before. The subject of burying things reminds me of an old joke: what’s the difference between a wolf and a dog? Answer: they both bury bones, but a wolf remembers where.


The one crop that has performed well was tomatoes. We must find room for them when we move. These have been the consistently reliable annual crop of all and the taste is so rarely matched in the shops. It’s only when you stop that you realize just how much work you have been doing. Walking around the garden reminds us of all the landmark moments that we have had over the years. Leaving after 28 years is going to be… interesting.

Getting rid of stuff can be annoying. We will no longer do many of the things we have done on a regular basis over the years and so we will not need the tools for said jobs. Although some are not worth passing on, others are almost new and make you feel you’d maybe like to get a bit back on them. An example was a pair of Chillington digging hoes we bought recently for £25 each. I thought I would try and sell them on Gumtree for £15 the pair. Some bloke came back to me after just a day wanting to know if I was ready to drop the price. Er, no! 

One thing I want to take is leaf mold. Yes, leaf mold. Your man Monty Don tells us that leaf mold is the one thing you can’t buy in the shops. Every year we get mega, and last year was our last crop. People say you can’t take it with you, but I am going to give it a go.

Our AGM passed off without actual physical violence (for once), but everyone’s blood was up ready for the hated quiz. I very much enjoy undertaking this as the caustic looks I get are well worth the trouble of setting it. The perfect questions are the ones that people know, and they know that they know, but for reasons of longevity are unable to recall it. People under a certain age will probably not understand the problem. As usual it descended into chaos and, as everyone marked their own answers, the scores were implausibly high.

We are now embarking on our normal pre covid programme. We have retained our competitions, seasonal photograph, homegrown vegetable or fruit, and a single bloom. For our first speaker we will welcome back Dr. Ian Bedford who until recently had been head of entomology research at the John Innes Centre. This time he will be talking to us on the subject of bugs.


Edward Szczepanowski: Secretary, Great Hockhan Gardening Club.

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