October 2012 Newsletter

Don’t forget to get your autumn planting onions, shallots and garlic before it gets too late if you prefer to plant them in autumn. There are some great varieties for you to choose from and also a good selection for planting in spring if you don’t have space in your veg plot right now. Harvested onions are best strung together and hung up in an airy place or stored in onion nets to keep them dry make sure onions are dry before you store them.



It’s the right time for autumn planting broad beans to give you a head start for earlier crops next year. Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia is the most popular and well known variety but if you have a smaller garden Broad Bean The Sutton might be the one for you, it is a more compact variety and rather attractive too. Both varieties are available as seed or as young plants for quicker establishment.

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 so you can increase your cropping season considerably.



VegSweet Peas sown in autumn will go on to produce the stockiest plants and the earliest flowers next year. They can be sown now in pots or Rootrainers and over-wintered in a Cold Frame or, if you live in a mild area you can sow straight into their flowering position, but make sure to give them a bit of protection during the worst winter weather with Fleece or Cloches and do plant in free-draining soil as, just like us, they really hate cold, wet, soggy feet!


Young Runner BeansYou still have time to sow Lettuce Winter Density so you can enjoy tender salad throughout the winter. Sow Perpetual Spinach or Spinach Mississippi or Oriental Spinach Mikado now and add the young leaves to salads as well as using as a vegetable. Mizuna is a great overwintering oriental vegetable too and Oriental Mustard Mix is perfect for zinging up a winter salad.  If you have a greenhouse sowing the seeds in a Gro-Bed 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.


Young Runner BeansYou are probably still harvesting plenty from the veg garden with carrots, lettuce, broccoli and calabrese all still producing well. You may even be lucky enough to still be picking a few late runner beans.

Squashes, pumpkins 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 Hunter and the new variety Hurricane, 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.


Tips for the garden...

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.

Autumn is the perfect time for planting new Soft Fruit Bushes and Fruit Trees. Even small gardens can grow some sort of fruit even if it’s just a container on the Patio.

Dig up and divide Rhubarb Crowns if they’re 4 or 5 years old and getting congested. Dig up the crown (this is very good exercise!) and using a spade and your foot divide the crown into at least three pieces. Don't worry about causing damage it will be fine. Each piece should have one or more pinky-white buds, most large crowns will have lots. Replant in a hole slightly larger than the pieces of crown with the top of the crown should approximately 2.5cm /1in below the surface of the soil.


Move tender plants such as Fuchsia and Geraniums into the greenhouse for overwintering and be prepared to cover with fleece overnight as the weather gets colder.  Remove all foliage and any dead or damaged stems to avoid pests and diseases taking hold of them.

Cut back border perennials that have died down unless they have attractive stems or seed heads which might be a source of food for birds. The stems of some perennials can also offer a place for garden wildlife such as frogs and toads to hide during the winter - you really need to encourage these slug-munching friends of the gardener to stay in your garden. But really the choice is yours, if some perennials are looking really tatty cut them back, if not just have a quick general tidy up – dead leaves, weeds etc and forget about the rest until spring.

When you do finally get round to raking 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 for drainage 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. Traditionally leaves are stored in a wire cage but dry leaves break down much slower than damp ones so to accelerate the fungal breakdown the leaves need to be wet and avoid the drying effects of wind, bin liners do this job perfectly! Shake and move the bags around every now and then to distribute the leaves and mix them up with the fungi that are doing all the work inside the bag.