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September 29, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

October jobs on the allotment

  • As the autumn progresses there’s plenty to be getting on with in the garden, allotment, fruit garden and greenhouse.

Herbs

  • Lift a few roots of mint and plant them shallowly in an 8in pot of gritty compost for spring picking under glass.
  • Place a cloche over a row of parsley, to keep up supplies for the winter months. Tired plants may be woken up with a gentle application of nitrogenous fertiliser.
  • Lift and divide perennial herbs such as mint, lemon balm and chives.

Vegetables

  • Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed a glut of beans and peas over the summer but you need to get a move on and pick any remaining pods before cold and wet weather ruins the last of the crop. You can completely strip plants of any pods as they are unlikely to produce any more flowers.
  • Borlotti beans, and other “dry” beans that can be dried and stored should be left on plants to dry out during dry weather. If the weather is damp, cut the stems and hang them up indoors to dry. Once they are completely dry they can be shelled and stored in airtight containers.
  • Once everything has been harvested, take down wigwams and other support structures and remove plants. Old plants can be chopped up and added to the compost bin, but leave the root system in the ground to be dug in later, as this supplies valuable, free nitrogen. If you have been growing your plants in containers, you can also add the spent compost to your heap.
  • Cucumbers that have continued flowering through this long will be at the end of their journey, and the time has come to pick the last fruits and dismantle their climbing frames.
  • Some maincrop potatoes may still be in the ground but it’s time to lift these late cropping varieties before temperatures plunge and potentially dame the tubers. After digging up the tubers, expose them to fresh air for a few hours and dry them off before storing in breathable sacks or boxes in a dark place.
  • In well-drained soils, onion sets can be planted now, 5in apart and 14in between the rows.
  • It will soon be too late to put in spring cabbages, so get the plants in now.
  • Begin digging over and adding manure or compost to vacant parts of the vegetable garden, and apply lime where necessary. A low pH reduces the resistance in brassicas to club root. Crop rotation and increasing the level of pH to a more alkaline pH7.5 or pH8.0 will improve their chances. Add 1lb of lime to a square yard for average soil, less for sandy soil, more for clay.
  • Protect late cauliflowers from frost by bending the leaves down over the curds.
  • Lift root crops such as beetroots, carrots and maincrop potatoes and store in vermin-proof bins (clean metal dustbins with lids will do), layered between fresh coir fibre. And make sure you remove all damaged or rotten tubers before you store them. Also harvest pumpkins, marrows and squashes. They will store well if kept dry, cool and frost-free in the garage.
  • Lift chicory crowns for forcing indoors. Keep late salads covered with a cloche to extend the season.
  • Cut down canes of Jerusalem artichokes to about 1ft. Dig out the tubers freshly as required over the coming months. Where eel worm is a problem, lift the tubers of Jerusalem artichokes and store them as you would potatoes.
  • Sow broad beans now or in the next couple of weeks, for an early crop next year. Place seeds 8in apart and 2in deep.
  • On light, warm soils, sunny spot, plant out cloves of garlic now, push individual cloves into the ground, 3in-4in apart, just covering the tips with soil. For good cropping it is important to establish the plants in the autumn. On cold, heavy soils, plant them in pots in a cold greenhouse for planting out in spring.
Fruit



  • Tidy up blackberries by cutting back any stems that carried fruit this year to ground level. Don’t prune any canes that didn’t carry fruit – these will carry flowers and fruit next year, so finish by tying them in to supports.
  • Cut out fruited stems on cultivated blackberries and tie in the new ones. Sever any layered tips and replant elsewhere.
  • Prune blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants by shortening stems that bore fruit this year to new shoots. Cut back to ground level any black coloured older stems.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of blackcurrant bushes using vigorous shoots 12in long.
  • Plant new strawberries including the rooted runners into new rows. Prepare the ground using plenty of moisture-retentive compost or manure.
  • Plant grape vines in rich, well-manured soil, in a sunny position, and erect posts and wires for training. Protection against cold is helpful during this first winter.
  • Prepare the soil for new fruit trees and bushes, ensuring there is adequate drainage on heavy soils.

General

  • Collect autumn leaves in plastic sacks, black bin-liners will do. When full, punch holes in the side and bottom, then tie up and store in a shady spot. In a year’s time use the leaf mould inside to mulch beds.
  • Water greenhouse and poly-tunnel plants in the morning, rather than the evening, so the air is dry in the evening, when the temperatures plummet.
  • Sweet peas can be sown into pots to over-winter in a sheltered position or a frame, and October is still a good time to sow lawns and meadows.
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