Sunday, 22 October 2017



As autumn arrives and the summer flowers fade, and crop harvesting is well under way, we theoretically enter a quiet phase of gardening, (I’m told) so take the chance to carry out the end of season tidy up.
Tidying up the borders
October is my target month for the final weed clearing task from allotment plot, rose, shrub and flower borders and along paths and fence lines. At this time of year hoeing is not very effective as the sun is not strong enough to shrivel weeds up so hand weeding is preferred and weeds can go on the compost heap. Then as leaves begin to fall rake them up and put them on the compost heap. On the vegetable plot some plants lose the lower leaves such as Swedes, kale and sprouts so remove these to the compost heap. If you do not have room for two compost heaps, try to keep fresh additions separate from old rotted down compost as this will be in demand as the winter digging starts. Any land cleared of crops can get composted and dug over to leave it rough for winter to allow frosts to break down the soil surface. It is now too late to sow any more green manure crops, but if tares, clover,
Six month old compost
field beans, mustard or winter rye have been sown there is no rush to dig these in unless they were sown early and are likely to start flowering. In which case trample down the plants and dig then in carefully so they get completely buried and left to rot over the winter.
Late autumn to early winter is a good time for getting out the secateurs, loppers and a saw as fruit trees and bushes, tall shrubs, roses and raspberries will all need pruning. If you have access to a wood shredder put all the pruning through the machine and the resultant fine or course shreddings will be invaluable for allotment paths, mulching fruit trees or adding to the compost heap.
Prune grape vines
In the glasshouse tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and grapes will now be at the end of their season, though I have picked some Black Hamburg grapes in early December a few years back. This year most will have been picked by the end of October. Take the chance to carry out a good clean up. Wash the glass both inside and outside, removing any moss and algae from overlapping glass panes. Give the gutters a good clean as they usually fill up with moss and leaves and all sorts of debris. Repair any broken panes of glass and make sure the sliding doors runs smoothly.
Bring wooden patio tables indoors as there won’t be much opportunity to eat outdoors for quite some time. I store ours in the garage, which also gives me the chance to clear that place up to make room for tables and storage of fruit, flower bulbs and corms and vegetables. Check over the patio tables and give a coat of varnish to preserve them for another year.
Put out the bird table with fresh seeds
Towards the end of the month we put out the bird table for winter and top up with fresh seed. However be guided by the weather as there may well still be plenty of natural berries on trees and shrubs and if the winter is mild birds can still find insects, grubs and worms in the soil.
The lawns should just about be finished growing now so give them a last cut, but set the blades slightly higher than normal so they have some growth to see them through winter. Now is a good time to get out the springbok rake and give the lawn a good scarify to remove thatch and moss. It also improves the lawn if you spike it with a garden fork every six inches to a depth of at least four inches. Brush in a sandy lawn compost to fill the holes, improve surface drainage, and add a sprinkle of a long lasting lawn fertiliser.
Check lawn edges and repair any broken bits to keep the lawn looking pristine.

Wee jobs to do this week
Winter cauliflower

Plant spring cabbage, Durham Early or Duncan and cauliflower Aalsmeer from sowings made in July and August. These will overwinter and provide fresh spring greens and hearted cabbage and cauliflower in spring. Space cauliflowers about 18 inches apart each way, but cabbages can go closer if you intend to harvest alternate plants earlier as spring greens. Duncan is very versatile so can be also grown as a summer and autumn harvested cabbage by altering the sowing date.
Protect crops with netting against pigeons and put a few slug pellets down as they have thrived in this mild but wet summer.

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