October 2011 Newsletter

carrots

You are probably still harvesting plenty from the veg garden with carrotslettucebroccoli and calabrese all still producing well. You may even be lucky enough to still be picking a few late runner beansSquashespumpkins and marrows will be ready now too and although they store very well for winter use, they need curing in a warm place first.

Cut them away from the plant with a small length of stem attached and leave in the sun or in a warm dry shed or greenhouse if the weather is wet. Make sure there is plenty of air around them. When the skin hardens and the fruit sounds hollow when tapped they can be stored in a dry, cool but frost free place. Winter squashes such as butternut types, keep the longest but need to be kept very dry and not too cold, an unheated room in the house or the cupboard under the stairs is perfect.

onions

Don’t forget to order autumn planting onions, shallots and garlic before it gets too late if you prefer to plant in autumn. There is also a very good selection for planting in spring if you don’t have space in your veg plot just yet.

Harvested onions are best strung together and hung up in an airy place or stored in onion nets to keep them dry. Hessian sacks are best for potatoes as they allow air flow but exclude light. Make sure both onions and potatoes are dry before you store them.

broad beans

It is the perfect time to sow Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia. This is the best autumn sowing broad bean of all and has been awarded the coveted RHS Award of Garden Merit. It will establish quickly in the warm soil and over-winters well to produce the earliest crops next year.

The more compact Broad Bean, The Sutton can also be sown in autumn and its size makes it more suitable for the smaller garden. Pea Douce Provence is a good variety to sow in autumn too - you could be picking your first peas next May! This versatile variety can also be spring sown too which can give you a longer cropping season.

 

lettuce

There is still time to sow Lettuce Winter Density so you can enjoy tender salad throughout the winter. Sow Spinach Campania now and add the young leaves to salads as well as for use as a vegetable. If you have a greenhouse sowing the seeds in troughs or large pots will help keep them a degree or two warmer inside when the weather is cold.

If growing outside it is advisable to cover these crops with fleece or cloches to protect the emerging young shoots from slugs and mice and give some frost protection especially in colder areas.

sweet peas

Sweet Peas Sown in autumn will go on to produce the stockiest plants and the earliest flowers next year. They can be sown in pots or rootrainers now and over-wintered in a cold frame or, if you live in a mild area you can sow straight into their flowering position, but give them a bit of protection during the worst winter weather and do plant in free-draining soil as they do not like wet, soggy feet. Try to protect from mice too as they enjoy snacking on a few pea seeds in the autumn!

Gardening Tips
Green Manures

Why not utilise any empty space you may have on your veg plot by sowing ‘green manures’, these are quick growing crops which are dug straight back into the soil before they set seed. They help to suppress weeds, protect soil from erosion over the winter and the breakdown of the plant material adds structure and humus which in turn releases nutrients back into the soil slowly and improves your soil at the same time.

Raspberries

Cut back all the fruited stems of blackberries and autumn fruiting raspberries when they have finished cropping, take them down to ground level and tie in the new growth ready for next years crop. Take out a third of the stems on currant bushes and remove any dead or damaged stems from the centre of gooseberry bushes to allow good air-flow.

Cut the runners from strawberry plants unless you want to propagate more plants and tidy up the foliage, you can cut back all the foliage or just remove any dead or dying foliage and leave some healthy growth to cover the crown of the plant over the winter. Order new strawberry plants to be ready for next years cropping.

Marigolds

Some hardy annual seeds can be sown now. If you like a natural look simply scatter seed directly where you want them to flower and cover with a fine layer of soil. This is the quickest method but identifying the emerging shoots from weed seedlings can be a bit difficult.

If you prefer a more structured planting, divide the bed into sections and sow in shallow drills running in different directions to achieve a natural look. It is easier to spot the young seedlings from the weeds between the drills. Cornflower, Love in a Mist, Poached Egg Plants (Limnanthes), Iceland Poppies and Marigolds (Calendula) are all suitable..

dead leaves

When you rake up all those dead leaves add them to the compost heap or put them all in a black bin liner with a few holes in the bottom and tuck them away somewhere out of sight. In about 18 months you will have a fine, crumbly leaf-mould which is great soil improver or mulch for your garden.

If you are planning to add the leaves to the compost heap, run over the ones on your lawn with the mower, this will chop them up and mix them with the lawn clippings so they break down much quicker.