October heralds a subtle shift from summer to winter crops. There's still some sowing and planting to do and some winter protection to prepare. This week, I also have a few ideas for growing edibles under cover and inside. Get outside as much as you can before the clocks go back and remember #GIGFY (gardening is good for you!).
- Sow pea ‘Douce Provence’ for the earliest crops of garden peas. These round seeded varieties are hardy and reliable. Sowing more seed at this time of year compensates for the inevitable higher losses that come with late sowing.
- If your soil is wet and sticky clay, it may pay to sow pea and beans into a length of rainwater gutter filled with good potting compost. If you line the bottom with newspaper, I find that the young plants and compost will slide neatly out into a shallow trench in the veg plot, and the paper soon rots away.
Peas and beans germinating in rainwater gutters
- Cover tender vegetables with tunnels of fleece.
A fleece covered tunnel for plant protection
- Remove and compost your stick beans. Store the support canes and posts so that they remain as dry as possible to prolong their life.
- If you haven’t already, you should harvest your main-crop potatoes now. Store the unblemished ones in a frost-free, dark place.
- Salad potatoes such as ‘Pink Fir Apple’ may still be growing, so leave a little longer if the tops are still green.
- Plant onion sets and shallots. If your soil is wet or is a heavy clay soil, it may pay to start them off in cell modules first and then plant them out later.
Shallots growing in modular trays
- Plant cloves of garlic (break up the bulbs). Add a little sand to the planting hole to sit under each clove. So-called ‘hard neck’ varieties are the best for UK growing conditions.
Garlic bulbs prior to breaking up to plant
- Pick main-crop varieties of apples and pears. Choose only the unblemished fruits to store. Others should be discarded or eaten straight away. Apples can be stored quite well in ordinary freezer bags, so fill them up and make a few holes in the sides with a sharp point (take care not to jab the fruit). Fold the top over and invert the bag to let it sit upside down (covering the opening) in a cool building away from direct light.
- Check stored fruit regularly and remove any that are ripe or rotten. This way, fruit varieties that keep well can be stored well into winter.
Apples and pears stored in polythene bags
- Pears are better stored individually and carefully watched as they can ripen rapidly.
@AlanGardenMaster carefully harvesting pears
- Remove any mummified fruits from apples and plum trees, as these will be infected with brown rot. The spores on these dried up fruits, often stuck together in clusters, could infect next year’s crop if left on the tree or the ground.
Brown rot mummified apple fruits
- It’s not too late to fix winter moth-trapping sticky bands to the trunks of your fruit trees.
Tying a sticky band trap to a tree
- Plant all forms of fruit trees and bushes this month as this is the best time for planting!
- Plant strawberry runners outside in well-drained soil. Raised beds are suitable for this but take care to plant them at the right depth. Too deep or dry will reduce the yield.
- Prepare soils for planting cane fruits. Many don’t become available until early November, and you should get them planted as soon as they arrive. Make sure that you have eradicated all perennial weeds!
Thoroughly cultivated garden soil
Soils, mulching, weed control, etc.
- If your soil is 'heavy' and has a high percentage of clay and/or silt, you can improve its structure and make it easier to work by digging in some Vitax Clay Breaker. This will stick the clay particles together and permanently improve the structure of the soil. Digging in lots of organic matter -such as composted green waste- helps too.
Garden compost for digging in
- Check your soil acidity and alkalinity. If the test shows your soil is acidic, add lime to restore it to pH 6.5. This is especially important for the locations where you are planning to grow cabbages, sprouts, broccoli, etc. A high pH also combats clubroot.
Greenhouse and growing indoors
- Sow sweetcorn shoots to grow on your windowsill. Look for interesting varieties such as 'F1 Bodacious.'
Tasty sweet corn shoots
- Clean shade material off greenhouses now and wash the glass to get the maximum light onto your plants. Replace any broken glass and block up any draft holes.
- Remove crops and plants before burning a greenhouse smoke candle to kill over-wintering pests.
- Sow ‘Rosetta’ lettuce or salad leaf (the winter range) to have salad veg throughout winter. Both are excellent and easy! For a sheltered place outside sow ‘Vaila’ which is a ‘Winter Gem’ type.
Winter Gem type winter lettuce
- Check that your heater works and that you have enough fuel.
- Sow ‘Twinkle’ peas for fresh pea shoots to eat. It couldn’t be easier to grow these either indoors or in the greenhouse.
Pea shoots growing in troughs
- Sow mustard and cress for a nutritious salad or garnish. Grow them in damp kitchen roll lined trays or punnets on a windowsill. Sow thickly, and sow the mustard two days later. Cover the seeds with paper until the seeds are 25 mm (1”) high then remove the cover. Keep moist by regular watering. This is a good way to get young children interested in gardening and produces quick results for impatient minds!
Cress, bread and cheese