Darker days bring time for taking stock

·1 min read

October, a month past autumn equinox. The fall of the summer plot. Sunflowers defeated. Flowering branches broken. Almost exhausted. As ever, I’m not ready. The deep, dark holding on until 7am. Only the street lights as I walk. Time to tidy away the year.

So much to be grateful for. The return of the red marigold. Regal, revived. A sprawling, unfolding beauty. A new appreciation, too, for other cartwheeled colours, gifted to us from a neighbouring site in the time of the awkward war with slugs and snails.

Sunflowers defeated. Flowering branches broken. Almost exhausted. As ever, I’m not ready

The chard is coming into its own. Peppermint-pink stems, Bright Lights oranges, wide-stemmed white Swiss. A few French beans failing, in creams and blues and speckled.

They had climbed the too-tall 8ft poles – we waited impatiently for the vines to fall, too high for even Howard’s arms.

Coriander sowed early to be left for flower and seed. Dancing, delicate whites punctuating the calendula. Maybe our best year ever for the pot marigold. Coloured like Hindu robes.

Chervil and cultivated rocket in pockets, patches, and short rows of green. Peas, though, a disappointment. The sticks now decked in nasturtium. Saffron-flowered, variegated leaf, in creams, and yellows and scarlet.

New this year, a tall verbena, grown from our neighbour’s escaping shoots. Also, the pollen-dusted fennel dotted through the plot. Amaranth in crimson spikes. Seeded branches now hanging from sweet-pea poles. Or already bagged for next year.

Howard and Rose grew, too, on Plot 26. A shaded, almost secret spot where Fern Verrow sweet peas lived longer and chicory threw up streams of astonishing blues.

Next year’s seed thrums impatiently in the shed.

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

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