October 2016 Newsletter

 It doesn’t seem possible that we are already at October! The days are noticeably shorter, the sun is lower in the sky and temperatures are dropping.

The first frosts are likely in October so if you haven’t harvested your last tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and courgettes the frosts will mean an end for them – unless they’re under cloches.

October is the right month to sow and plant one or two crops for next year, but at this time of the year the work is primarily about clearing away and composting the remains of the summer’s harvest.

Don’t miss our round up from the shows we visited in September, we had a great time, it is always great to talk to you and find out how your season was.

Have a harvest-rich October.

Anna Betts


Jobs to do


Lift and store carrots

October is the time to left maincrop carrots for storage.  You’ll be able to tell when your carrots are ready for harvesting because you’ll be able to see the 'shoulder’ of the carrot just above the soil surface. They can be left in the ground until they reach the required size, or left to store there until needed. In light soil pull out roots carefully as they reach the required size. In heavier soil you’ll need to push a fork into the ground next to them and gently lever them out.

Carrots withstand light frost, but are damaged by heavy frost. They can be stored in the following ways:

  • In the ground – This is the best method for retaining flavour, but is best in light, well-drained soil. Allow the foliage to die back, or cut back foliage from early November if it hasn’t yet died back, and cover with black polythene to keep it dark and to keep the rain off. For additional protection you can include a layer of cardboard underneath the polythene too. These can be dug up and used when required. 
  • Indoors – Lift the carrots before the first heavy frost. Cut the foliage off and lay them in rows in cardboard or wood boxes, each layer separated by a layer of sand. Carrots can be pulled from the box when required.


Keep and eye on sprouts

Having sown and raised Brussels sprouts throughout the summer, it’s now time to keep your eye on them and prepare for the on-coming wintry season.

Earth up soil around the stalks. Provide stakes for varieties that produce tall stalks like ‘Titus’ and will be ready for harvest around late autumn and winter. Wind-rock can cause your Brussels sprout plants to become loose in the soil and they may collapse in windy, wintry weather.

If it’s a warm autumn, water generously in the mornings and check plants in the evening to see if they need a top-up.

Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, especially ones that affect brassicas. See our advice on club-root below and watch out for pigeons and doves. 


Cut down old pea and bean plants and dig them in!

Now that your peas and beans are coming to the end of their yields, it’s time to start thinking about clearing them from your plot.

Instead of removing all the leaves and stems, and taking them away, chop up the plant material either in a shredder or using a spade, and incorporate it into the soil for extra levels of nitrogen.

This area of the vegetable plot is now perfect for leafy brassicas to grow in next year, on account of the high levels of nitrogen produced by the nitrogen-fixing peas and beans. 


Protect outdoor salad crops

In October it’s not unknown for temperatures to drop in the evening to near freezing, if not below which can of course affect some of your salad crops if they are left unprotected.  So with a bit of preparation you can extend your cut and come-again harvests of salad leaves.

Cloches, mini polytunnels and horticultural fleece make good frost-protectors and are easy to use.

Slugs and snails continue to be a problem in October, especially if it’s particularly wet or warm. There are a number of ways you can reduce their numbers. You can use one or a combination of the following methods. Use slug pellets, surround your crops with copper tapes or mats which slugs find repellent, create beer traps or apply a biological control like Nemaslug based on worm-like creatures called nematodes that attack the bodies of underground slugs.

Nematodes are active in soil that is 5-20°c, so apply a nematode solution only in a warm October, and when you can see that the soil has not been touched by frost.

Don’t forget the great offer we have in the Autumn 2016 catalogue – Half price fleece tunnel when you spend over £50 – Only £9.95


Earth up leeks

October’s a good time to raise the soil level a bit around the bases of winter-cropping leeks. If you’re growing them in a row simply mound up the soil on either side. Covering the bases will cause the stems to whiten (blanching). A bi-coloured white and green leek is a sure sign of a well-grown and exhibit-worthy crop.

When it comes to preparing leeks for your Sunday roasts or your home-made soups, wash them thoroughly, getting out any soil and grit from between the leaves. 


Plant Onions, Shallots and Garlic

From now to November you can plant autumn-planting onion and shallot sets pointy side up straight into the soil outdoors at 7-10cm (3-4in) intervals in a row, and space rows at 30cm (12in) apart in an open, sunny site in fertile soil that is well-draining yet moisture retentive.

Incorporating bulky compost or fertiliser into the soil in the spring before will achieve this by upping its fertility levels and creating a good soil texture, without it being too rich.

For garlics, choose a sunny site and soil that is well drained. Incorporating bulky compost into the soil before planting will increase fertility and nutrient levels as well as improve the soil texture to make it better-draining but at the same time adequately moisture-retentive.

Garlics do not thrive in acid soils so adding lime is advisable to raise the pH and create a more alkaline soil.

Plant cloves of garlic 15cm (6in) apart about 5-7cm (2-3in) deep and if planting in more than one row 30cm (12in) between rows. Plant cloves are little shallower in clay soils, but if the soil is nicely worked and well-textured plant at 5-10cm (2-4in). Water well.

Consider planting under black polythene, which suppresses emerging weeds. Ridding weeds by hoeing later in the season may damage the bulb heads neat the surface of the soil. You can make slits where you plant for the emerging shoots to grow through.


Disease of the month - Clubroot

Club root is a fungus that affects the roots of leafy crops in the Brassica family including cabbages, cauliflowers and Brussels Sprouts. It affects the growth and development of roots specifically which can lead to a disappointing harvest.

Troubleshoot this disease by trying the following;

  • Keep the soil more alkaline than acidic where you are growing Brassica vegetables. You can add lime to the soil to turn it clubroot-unfriendly.
  • Improve the drainage of your soil- add organic matter like manure or bulky compost when the plot is vacant which opens the soil improving air circulation around the roots and general drainage.
  • Keep the area well-weeded. Clubroot co-exists in Brassica-related weeds like shepherd’s purse, so keep this annual weed hoed off when you first see it.
  • Choose clubroot-resistant varieties like cabbage ‘Kilaxy’, cauliflower ‘Clapton’, Brussels sprout ‘Crispus’, Cabbage Lodero’. 




Harrogate Autumn Show – the highlight from 16-18 September

James and the team had a great time at the Harrogate show in September.  We loaded our cart with lots of autumn planting onion, shallots and garlic.  Plus a big pile of our new catalogue and went along to the show. 

It was great to be with the National Vegetable society and their very impressive selection vegetable competition, it always amazes me of the quality of the vegetables they exhibit.

For James it was just lovely to meet so many of customers and a few new ones.  We love to hear from our customers as it’s the best way for us to deliver exactly what you need.  Plus a great opportunity to find out how your seasons been and the challenges and the successes you have had.


Malvern Autumn Show and Tomato Montello Competition – the highlights from 24 - 25 September

You may remember that last September we launched Tomato Montello into our catalogues at the bargain price of 50p plus the opportunity to bring yours along to Malvern show and exhibit them with the National Vegetable Society. 

It seems like you all had lots of fun trying Montello and seem to love it as much as we do.  You all seems to be amazed by the amount of fruit and the great taste.  We were very impressed with the 42 entries and was one of the biggest classes in the show.  Congratulations to Simon Smith who won first prize and took home £250!

We were lucky enough to take John Burrows the breeder of Montello who kindly brought along to the show some plants and fruits to taste.  By the end of the show there were lots more people wanting to give Montello a try next year.