October 2020 autumn harvests, new planting under cover, composting wood chips, diseases
It’s a stark difference between the remains of summer in late September, and an entry to winter by 31st. I notice while picking salads every week, how leaves from the same plants become thinner, paler and smaller, the opposite of spring. It’s as much about light as temperature.
September here has been unusually dry, with just 14mm or 0.6in rain. We have not watered much because it’s going to rain soon, and with no dig the soil is holding moisture very well.
Most sowing is done except for garlic, and broad beans later
You can separate your own garlic bulbs, into cloves for planting. It’s the only vegetable worth sowing now, and are for a harvest next June. I pop garlic cloves into dibbed holes almost at soil level, then cover with 3cm of compost.
Pricking and planting, interplanting
- Pricking out is when small, two leaf seedlings are moved from seed tray to individual modules.
- Transplanting is when plants of small to medium size go in the ground: we use a wooden dibber to make holes for them
- Interplanting is when you pop transplants between existing plantings which will finish soon, details in online course 2
First frosts, very slight so far
We had a ground frost on 26th and 28th September, but only briefly, no damage caused. Plants at risk include climbing and dwarf beans, squash and pumpkin, tomato, potato, courgette and cucumber. I covered the climbing beans with Thermacrop, and it helped to minimise damage, which was minimal as it happens. Watch the weather forecasts, be aware of your local conditions.
Cabbage and Chinese cabbage
The brassica family is huge, and each member needs understanding of best times to sow and plant. All are enjoyed by insects and other wildlife!
For example Chinese cabbage can make lovely hearts or heads in the autumn, from sowing mid to late summer. While spring cabbage is best sown late summer, to over-winter as small plants. They they make most growth in early to mid spring, sometimes even hearting up, depending on the variety.
Compost and other sources of fertility
There are plenty of raw materials for compost making now, and if you want quality compost, best cut any long stems and woody material to 10cm lengths. A lawnmower is good for shredding tree leaves and twiggy prunings.
Use one half of such woody material, with one half grass clippings and leafy material, for a balanced mix to make compost. If the woody material is very woody, such as wood chip preferably aged already, use one quarter or less.
If adding tree leaves, around one quarter of the mix is max. If you have a lot of leaves, their own pile works well for leaf mould. Chopped with a mower is good. Leaf mould decays more slowly than a compost heap, it’s fungal, and valuable in the end.
I have been happy to receive two piles of wood chips recently, from tree surgeons happy to offload. Both heaps heated to 60C for a few days, after we watered them.
Harvest winter squash by mid October, and before frost. Then bring into the house so they cure in the warmth. A sunny windowsill serves well, and once the squash are fully dry on the outside, they keep for months, to eat at your leisure. Pumpkins on the other hand do not store so well and want eating by December – their skin is softer and flesh more watery than true squash.
Best pick all remaining tomatoes now, and bring them indoors to finish ripening. They ripen better off the plant, anywhere in your house, and not in sunshine as it happens, according to a recent trial by Which? Gardening.
There are always a few, but mostly they are not catastrophic! The captions are to give you guidance.
August winds blew over my broccoli plants, and it looked bad just after the event. However, brassica plants have amazing strength and are used to coping with wind, perhaps because of their seaside origins. The photos show how they stood up again, without our doing anything except for keeping them tidy, removing lower leaves. That helps to keep slug numbers low.
Growth is still steady, but is decreasing fast too
The photos below show the change over eight days since the equinox. The soil and air are still warm, but nights are cooling fast, and daylight now decreases very fast!
The third plantings below will make only small harvests. They are still worthwhile, and are good for soil because their roots keep the soil organisms busy and help them to feed. You could also sow a green manure such as mustard or field beans, and as soon as possible.