We’ve had a relatively warm autumn so far. And on warm days it’s great visiting the allotment or vegetable patch and getting autumn-planting bulbs into the ground.
Yes, we’ve had a few chilly evenings thrown in but no frosts. Yet! Prepare yourself for frosts though, and invest in some horticultural fleece, polytunnel material or cloches for when the cold weather does arrive.
When the weather does turn for the worse, stay indoors and take the opportunity to browse our new range of fantastic new crops from the Marshalls Autumn catalogue including a wide range of seed potatoes for 2016, and new and exciting soft fruits including balloonberry and chuckleberry.
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Bare-root fruit trees respond really well when planting in late-autumn. The roots get to work straight away in growing and developing to provide a strong underground network ready for the stem-growing season in spring.
As long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen bare-rooted trees can be planted straight away. Keep cool until planted.
Once you receive your plants from us it’s a good idea to give them a soak in a bucket of cold water for a couple of hours prior to planting, to make sure the roots are hydrated.
Dig a hole that’s large enough to fit the entire root mass without any roots being broken, bent or emerging from the surface. It also needs to be deep enough to cover the roots with around half an inch of soil. Use any appropriate fertiliser like Fish, Blood and Bone to give the tree an initial boost.
Refill the hole with soil compacting the soil around the roots bit by bit. Finally firm down the planted area gently with your hands or sole of your foot.
Give the planted area a good soak with water straight away after planting. It pays to surround the trunk with a warming thick layer of bulky compost or bark. Make sure the thick layer doesn’t make direct contact with the trunk – just make a ring of mulch around the trunk.
Variety Pea ‘Douce Provence’ is known for its sweet and succulent peas- versatile enough to use in risotto, to accompany Sunday dinners or even to eat raw, straight from the plant.
You can plant these in late autumn to overwinter and get earlier harvests next year starting from May.
Cover with a horticultural fleece or cloches over winter – this gives a little protection if it’s a particularly cold winter ahead and also doubles up as protection against insect, bird and mammal pests.
Keep a regular supply of young and nutritious salad leaves. They’re great in soups and salads and make fantastic garnishes for a range of tasty meals. They’re easy to grow especially in purpose-created kits like our Grow-Felt Mats.
Place a mat into the black tray and add some water to moisten the mat.
Sprinkle seeds evenly onto the moist mat covering the area so they are close but not on top of each other
Place the transparent lid over the black tray.
Place the complete kit on a light windowsill, exposed to maximum light.
Seeds will germinate and produce leaves in up to two weeks. The seed leaves will emerge first – these are the thicker, succulent smaller leaves. After the first true leaves will appear. Snip the stems and leaves with scissors.
The leaves will grow back if you keep the felt mats damp and keep the kit in a light place like a window sill.
You can start harvesting this unusual yet flavoursome crop of the carrot family at this time of year. Start lifting now and using the crop for autumn-salads – grated celeriac makes a great refreshing component of salad.
If you have a large number of plants, you can harvest gradually throughout the winter. As the days get colder, you might be thinking about using celeriac for mash for warming meals.
Place a mulch of straw now between the plants or a horticultural fleece over the crops. This will provide them with that little bit of protection against the cold should it be a harsh winter.
You can then harvest the crops anytime from now up to March, as and when you need them.
Plant strawberry runners (the young horizontal stems ready to become new plants) in containers and baskets now to overwinter, and they’ll fruit earlier next summer to give you a head start on harvests.
Planting strawberries plants now to overwinter is a great way to get strong and prolific plants. They spend the winter putting down a strong network of roots, and then in spring have a strong base from which grows healthy stems with lots of flowers.
If you grow a number of different varieties now you can stagger your harvests and to have flavoursome strawberry fruits from as early as May to see you through the summer.
Treat to a high-phosphorous and potassium feed, like fish, blood and bone, now which will really give the roots a boost for growing over winter and change to a high-potash feed when it warms up again in spring.
As temperatures start to lower and days get shorter, developing crops are going to notice the changes in weather.
Use horticultural fleece to cover germinating seeds and young plants such as overwintering broad bean plants and spring cabbage. The fleece provides an internal environment of heat which keeps away the worst of frosts and plummeting night temperatures.
It also doubles up as protection against pests like woodpigeons which are known to strip the succulent thick leaves of brassicas.
Cover young and vulnerable fruit-trees like apricots with horticultural fleece too on nights when frosts are predicted. This will protect fruit buds and young stems.
On those dry days in autumn when you’re out on your vegetable plot and clearing organic waste like used stems and leaves use them for making your own compost.
Recycling plant material is really satisfying and you can produce some really nutritious organic matter for future crops. Simply make a compost bin from wooden slats or buy ready-made compost bins.
For good quality compost you want a healthy balance of nitrogen-rich material such as green leaves and stems with carbon-rich materials like chopped up woody branches and stems, newspaper and broken up roots.
If you can chop up or shred material first before adding to your compost, this will speed up the composting process. Chopped up material has more surface area for beneficial bacteria to break down.
If you can get farmyard manure from local farms, adding this will help. Other material like egg-shells, vegetables skins and ripped-up newspaper all make good composting ingredients.
This formulation encourages healthy bacteria and other natural decomposers to get to work in producing you good organic material to grow your crops in. Compost activators are available which prepare you with ready-prepared mix full of useful micro-organisms.
To get your compost started why not add some ready-formulated Organic Extra to give you a head start and bulk up your supply.
Different varieties purple-sprouting broccoli crop at different times of the year- but regardless of variety if you want to produce lots of the small, yet tasty and nutritious heads of broccoli you’ll want to be keen to be ‘off with its head’.
When the central flowerhead gets to the size of between a golf ball and a tennis ball chop it off and this will encourage lots of flowerhead-producing sideshoots.
You can harvest the leaves too which are full of vitamins and make a great addition to soups and flavouring for stocks.
Broccoli ‘Extra Early Rudolph’ - Good sized, tender spears are produced on large framed plants. This high quality broccoli will begin to crop in early autumn but is at its best from November to February.
Broccoli ‘Claret’ - provides a very good crop from mid-April onwards. The spears are extra large and succulent and can be harvested for up to 4 weeks.
Broccoli ‘Summer Purple’ – it’s a breeding breakthrough! It has been specially bred for summer cropping - from late June to October, depending on sowing date and season.
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Disease of the Month – Leek rust
The rust causes small patches of orange-brown on the green leaves which not only looks unattractive but can cause leaves to wither and weaken the plant generally.
The is currently no chemical control for eliminating leek rust; however there are things you can do culturally to reduce chances of infection.
When adding fertiliser to your soil ensure you use a medium lower in nitrogen and higher in potassium. An special-formula onion feed is perfect for this.
Leek rust thrives in humid conditions so reduce humidity levels by not planting so close and be vigilant in getting rid of weeds constantly.
When harvesting crops, dispose of leaves rather than adding to compost. This will take away the spores, interrupting the life-cycle of the disease.
In October we visited the RHS London Harvest Festival Show to celebrate autumn harvests and to glean some top information from fellow experts in the RHS and growers from around the country.
The RHS Fruit and Vegetable Competition didn’t disappoint with lovely examples of apple and pear varieties, and a gigantic pumpkin weighing in at 1,122lbs (509kg) grown by Hampshire grower Ian Paton.
There was ample opportunity to shop for some of the best in produce and plants, and get great advice from growers around the country. Visit the RHS website and watch this space for information on next year’s event.
In mid-October we at Marshalls visited the Autumn Brassica Trials of specialist growers around the South Lincolnshire region. It was a fantastic opportunity at the close of the main season to see what local growers were trialling for keen vegetable growers.
We made notes, took pictures and gleaned lots of information about what may be coming up in the world of vegetable crops. So watch this space and keep an eye out for new and exciting varieties we’ve got planned for our customers.