Early autumn jobsPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg
Autumn is definitely in the air. Shortening hours of daylight; cooler early mornings (my preferred time to garden); heavy dewfall; trees beginning to ‘turn’. Some plants on my allotment are still cropping well – climbing beans, courgettes, beetroot, lettuce. A search under the massive leaves of the straggling squash plants reveals the brightly coloured fruit, filling out nicely and ready for cutting in a week or two. The distinctive red-flecked pods of the Barlotti beans are darkening as they dry on the plants, the yellowing leaves falling. The last potatoes have been lifted and stored for winter eating. Forgotten courgettes, now the size of prize marrows! It’s been a great year for both soft and hard fruits: my raspberry canes (‘All Gold’) are still producing plump and juicy berries, as is the cultivated blackberry which runs along one edge of my plot. The boughs of apple trees on my allotment site are so laden with fruit that they’re snapping under the weight.
Time to push on
It’s easy for us veg gardeners to get caught out at this time of year, the hinterland between summer harvest and the onset of winter. There’s a lot to be done and if you intend making autumn sowings of plants which will withstand the rigours of winter – or merely get your plot into a tidy state and ‘mothball’ it over the coming months – don’t delay. We’ve been lucky with early autumn weather for the past few years, nothing like a spell of warm September sunshine to lull one into a sense of false security. But time races on and before long the winter rains, soggy ground and short, dark days will be with us once again.
Autumn planting and sowing
Prepare to plant by buying in the seeds and sets (small bulbs) that you will need as these will be on sale soon: broad beans ‘Aquadulce Claudia, a favourite of mine which will grow into tough little plants during the autumn and should withstand the worst of winter; onion sets, ‘Senshu Yellow’ and ‘Red Electric’; garlic, try ‘Solent Wight’. It’s still fine to sow chard and some varieties of pea (‘Kelvedon Wonder’ and ‘Meteor’) should over-winter well and get off to a flying start next spring. If you fancy winter salads, sow ‘Winter Gem’ lettuce and any of the cut-and-come-again salad leaf mixes. If you can find brassica plants, it’s not too late to get these into the ground.
Jobs to do now
I’m busy clearing away and composting the remains of plants which are now over. Once done, I’ve been weeding and forking over the soil which I may decide to cover with tough, woven polyester material which not only deters weed growth but will also protect the soil from the worst winter weather.
If you make compost, it’s a good time to empty the ‘bin’, assuming the compost is well rotted A layer of homemade compost added to a recently cleared bed will keep the worms happy for weeks while they drag the rich matter deep into the ground. When it comes to enriching your precious ground, nothing beats farm or horse manure, so seek out a local supplier and place an order. Most manure is delivered ‘fresh’ and needs to be left to rot down, a process which takes several months. Part of my autumn routine is to use the heap of well-rotted manure which I had delivered this time last year and then replace it with new delivery.
My final tip is to give any herbs a final trim in order to create compact and healthy plants which will overwinter and reward you with a host of fresh shoots and flowers next year.