October 2010 Newsletter

October 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 establishes quickly in the warm soil and over-winters well to produce the earliest crops next year. If you love to grow your own fresh Pea's you will find Feltham First is a great variety to sow in autumn too. You could be picking your first peas next May!  growing tips and sowing information can be found in page 76 of our 2009 catalogue.

Autumn sown Sweet Peas produce the stockiest plants and the earliest flowers next year. Sow them 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! A maximum/minimum thermometer could be a useful aid at this time of year enabling you to give seedlings protection when they most need it.

Don't forget to order autumn planting onions, shallots and garlic before it gets too late. We have 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. Make sure onions and potatoes are dry before you store them. Hessian sacks are best for potatoes as they allow air flow but exclude light.

 There is still time to sow Lettuce Winter Density and Spinach Campania, it may be advisable to cover them with fleece or cloches to protect the emerging young shoots from mice and give some frost protection especially in colder areas. They grow quickly in mild weather and you can enjoy tender salad throughout the winter, young spinach leaves are great added to salads as well as used as a tasty vegetable.

You may still be harvesting Squashes, Pumpkins and Marrows and they store well for use over winter but 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. Allow plenty of air flow and when the skins have hardened 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, in an unheated room in the house or the cupboard under the stairs is perfect.

Finish picking Apples and Pears in case the weather turns windy and knocks them off the trees. Any unripe tomatoes should be picked too, they won't ripen outside now but they will indoors in a warm place. Keep pulling carrots and beetroot and earth up leeks and celery to blanch the stems.

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. 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.

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. 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.

If your plot is beginning to empty and you have been thinking of making raised beds, now could be a good time to start building them, so that in the spring you can take advantage of all the lovely compost you have been digging in over the months. And with modern gardens getting smaller and growing space at a premium raised beds can be an invaluable asset to the vegetable gardener. They help give better control of pests and diseases and with defined areas it is easier to improve soil structure, drainage. Therefore the soil is easier to warm up with fleece in spring for earlier crops.

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.