Putting the garden to bed, winter greens

by | Oct 13, 2023 | Gardening bore | 2 comments

Well, well, well, it’s mid-October already. Soon it’ll be Christmas, then 2024, then 2025, then 2030. And then I’ll be 50. Anyone else feeling their hair waft in the wind as time literally wooshes by?

(It’s like that scene in When Harry Met Sally, where Sally is crying about life, her ex getting married, etc. ‘And I’m going to be 40!’ she moans. ‘In EIGHT years,’ Harry reminds her.)

I love October in Bulgaria. It might be one of my favourite months of the year. (August is in first place, then December, then October, then maybe May. How do you rank your months?) October mornings are fresh and chilly, and there’s the first tinges of woodsmoke in the air. But the days are warm enough to go walking or work in the garden in a t-shirt.

Speaking of the garden, we’ve been busy harvesting, clearing and generally putting the veg garden to (sort of) bed. We’ve harvested the squash and pumpkins, weeded the dreaded bindweed (it’ll be back), thinned and replanted our messy strawberry patch, and cleared the tomatoes from the greenhouse. (Last year, the tomatoes cropped well into November but we’ve had a lot of blight this year, so it’s off to the burning pile with them.)

Still to harvest we have sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and my funny little cabbages. The kale and chard should hopefully keep going into winter (kale definitely, but this is my first year with chard). And the courgettes are just about limping along, but I reckon we’re about to pick the last of them.

Seeing as our winters are becoming noticeably milder, I thought I’d try my hand at growing some winter greens in our (unheated) greenhouse. I’ve planted spring cabbage, more chard, winter lettuce, winter purslane, and land cress (although the cress doesn’t look that promising). Every winter is a guessing game as to how harsh it’s going to be, so some of these might not make it, but if I can pick some fresh leaves across winter and spring, I’ll be happy.

How was your gardening year overall? Ours was a mixed bag thanks to a super-rainy April, May and June, and then crazy-hot and dry weather for months after that. Our courgettes, squash, beans, and raspberries did brilliantly (they all loved the early rains). I’m really happy with the chard and will be growing it again. My beets were fine. Oh, and the nasturtiums, which we grow as a lettuce/spinach alternative, were stonking. They just kept going and going and going – through rain, drought, whatever. They didn’t even get infested with flea beetle until a few weeks ago, which is amazing (we usually get flea beetle in July).

So what didn’t do well for us this year? Tomatoes, for one thing. We didn’t get nearly as big a crop as usual (enough to eat fresh and make ketchup, but not enough to make our year’s worth of passata). This has happened before, whenever our tomato seedlings fail and we have to buy plants from the market – the plants are cheap and plentiful, but they seem to get blight much worse than the varieties we buy as seeds.

Our strawberries – usually a super-reliable crop – did really badly in the June rain, rotting off as fast as they were ripening and/or getting munched by the resident snail army.

And my funny little Bulgarian white cabbages – bought from the market to replace some of my kale seedlings that died – are about the size of celeriac or a big turnip. So not very cabbage-sized at all. It’s fine, they’ll do for sauerkraut, but they obviously need more water across July and August than I’m prepared to give them (other crops take priority). I doubt I’ll grow them again. Kale is my main brassica love, and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.

That brings you up to date on our Bulgarian gardening season, as it winds down for winter. Are you eeking out the last of the gardening, or are you more than ready for a few months off?


  1. Katt

    I’m trying my best to get ready for my first winter living full time in Bulgaria by myself, because husband an only child cannot leave his elderly Mother. So I’ve got rid of some Bulgarian furniture , I left it in the lane outside the gate for people to help themselves to, bought and assembled new furniture for the basement living room. Bought air conditioner for upstairs and am having a look at finally getting the basement kitchen fit for constant use starting with the flooring, tiles were considered but the floor is uneven so it will have to be lino. And unfitted units as some parts of the walls are wattle and daub. wish me luck

    • Auntie Bulgaria

      Good luck with your first winter. We went through our first winter without a proper kitchen (just a sink and table, bare concrete floor, etc.). It’s an adventure!


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