It’s a time of change...
September is bountiful time of the year, a time to enjoy collecting crops and thinking about which ones we want to grow again next year. Then, at the end of October, it’s time to clear the remnants of summer crops and to consider how to fill those gaps for next year. The latest Kings Seeds catalogue will soon be available at each site and contains excellent value seeds, onion sets seed potatoes and more. I
f the weather turns for the worse then spend an afternoon making plans for next year. It’s also time to store equipment for the winter buy don’t be too tidy – the odd pile of canes and long grass may provide the ideal habitat for beneficial insects.
There are crops to harvest and preserve/store – freeze beans and herbs, store squashes and convert other produce into chutneys and pickles. And, when you’ve used all you can from your crops, any plant waste can be added to your compost heap to rot down over the winter.
The weather can be extreme – at this time of year there can be prolonged dry spells, and hot or cold weather – so keep a close eye on the forecast and water or protect your plants as necessary.
Autumn is a good time to mulch around plants above warm, wet, weed-free soil. Biodegradable mulches (garden compost, wood chippings, well-rotted manure…) gradually release nutrients and improve the condition of the soil. (Non-biodegradable materials (e.g. shingle or fabric sheets) allow water to reach roots and suppress weed growth. Try not to smother small plants or the base of trees as this can cause them to soften.
Outdoors - Spinach, spring onions, spring cabbage, garlic, herbs and salad crops.
Prune soft fruits, pick off any rotting fruit, plant out strawberry runners
Hard fruit, cabbages, beetroot, onions, maincrop potatoes, French and runner beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, chard, turnips .
A well planned plot will have some well-developed brassicas as we head towards winter: various types of kale, cabbage, sprouts and broccoli. Give them a helping hand by:
Salad crops develop quickly, and there are a wide variety – sorrel, lettuce, endive, kale, radicchio and mustard leaves - to suit various conditions.
They can be grown in seed drills, broadcast over an area of ground or grown in containers. Either way, they offer a fresh and tasty alternative to bags of supermarket salads.
As salad crops can outgrow weeds, watering and pests are the main concerns for salad growers. Watering every two days may be necessary during long dry spells if salad crops are grown in compost rich beds (daily watering may be necessary if they are grown in small pots).
Slugs are the main pest, and can be treated with pellets, nematodes, or regular picking off. Ants and aphids can also be a problem – ants can be kept in check if the surrounding soil is kept moist. Aphids can be squashed by hand if they are not tackled by ladybirds or beetles.
Regular collect leaves when they are ready to harvest. If leaves start to sag after harvesting they can be recovered by soaking in cold water.
February is time to prepare seed potatoes for planting by ‘chitting’ them – storing them in such a way that they start to sprout before being planted in the ground.
The potatoes should be spread out over a single layer in a cool, dry place which is free from the risk of frost. Large, unused egg boxes are ideal for this, allowing air circulation between each seed potato.
Ideally the storage area should be bright but the seed potatoes should be out of direct sunlight. After a few days the potatoes will then grow short stubby shoots which will help the potato plants to grow when they are planted out to get them off to a fast start when planted out. St Patrick’s Day is the traditional day of the year to plant potatoes.
There is some evidence that you can grow larger potatoes by breaking off the weaker shoots just before planting, leaving only the three or four stronger shoots to grow.