I've been in seventh heaven this week. The days have been hot and sunny, the rain has kept away, and my garden is overflowing with produce. Everything seems so easy as I saunter out of the house, barefooted, with a basket and knife in my hand to gather salad ingredients, and cut the first of the courgettes. It's enough to make me forget that in just a few months the same warm, dry paths I'm padding over will be cold and icy, that stinging winds will be howling around the house, and that I'll be digging through snow for a bucket of parsnips and carrots. Fortunately, years of experience have taught me that careful planning in summer ensures as much winter convenience in the garden as possible. It also allows for the best growth of winter vegetables.
With this in mind, I'm sowing my carrots, leeks, and parsnips in the closest beds to the house, and in the north-facing section of the garden where they'll catch not only the summer sun, but any that is on offer during winter. I'm also renewing the sawdust on the paths around them – all of which will make a winter dash from the house to gather vegetables a job of just a few minutes – one that can be achieved in reasonable comfort in any weather. I use only one or two swede turnips a week in winter, so they can be situated a little further from the house. However, like the kales and Brussels sprouts which will live outdoors through the coldest months, I'll still want them on the north facing side of the house so that they catch any winter sun that comes their way. The leeks don't do much growing after the end of March so they don't need to be in the sunniest winter bed. Then again, I do gather them almost every day so it's best to have them within easy reach of the back door. From mid summer onwards, any brassicas I plant out will be in north facing beds to make the most of the autumn warmth.
Herbs are something I value in winter, when barely a meal goes by that I don't use a sprinkle of parsley or oreganum. These little gems are sun-lovers, and would happily grow in the glasshouse. Unfortunately, the glasshouse is a reasonable distance from the house so, for winter convenience, I'll soon be potting up some parsley seedlings and oreganum cuttings and moving them onto the sunniest part of the deck ready for winter handiness. I'm also potting up cuttings of rosemary and a root of two of bay tree for the same reason. They're doing well in the garden but there's nothing like having them in a pot just a step from the door when a blizzard is raging outside.
Thinking ahead to this degree seems quite over the top in the middle of summer but, come winter, I know I'll feel pretty pleased with myself!