October is here and the colour palette of the allotment is clinging to the vibrant, bright greens of Summer, but make no mistake the smokey, warm orange hues of Autumn are coming. And with Autumn can come some of the best harvests... pumpkins, squashes, kales, maincrop potatoes and earthy roots, all waiting patiently to make their appearance in a hearty bowl of piping hot winter stew.
The sun will be taking a step back this month, casting magical long shadows across the vegetable beds. As gardeners we will be grabbing every last minute of daylight before the clocks go back.
Garlic needs a long growing season with a good cold spell to encourage bulbs to develop. Now is the ideal time to plant your garlic cloves to be rewarded with a crop in June. Once harvested and dried they will last for months.
Another vegetable that can be direct sown now is broad beans. They are incredibly hardy and will survive even the harshest of winters. Autumn sown broad beans will crop earlier and suffer fewer pest problems than their spring-sown counterparts. 'Aquadulce Claudia' is by far the best
variety for over-wintering.
You can also plant out onion sets that are suitable for autumn planting. An onion set is basically an immature onion that someone else has started growing from seed, then harvested and kept dormant ready for you to pop in the ground and get it going again. Easy!
You could be eating fresh garden peas earlier than anyone else next year if you sow them now. Go for a hardy variety known to survive over winter; a dwarf pea called ‘Meteor’ is an excellent choice.
Fallen leaves are an excellent tonic for the vegetable patch - don’t waste them! Rake them up and stuff them into a black bag, add some water, poke a few holes and pile up out of sight somewhere. In two years you will have an excellent compost. If you can’t wait that long, partially rotted leaves are a great mulch - you can layer them directly onto your empty beds now and let them decompose on the surface over the winter. The worms will love you.
By now all your beans will have come to an end. Even the ones you left on the plant to develop for seed saving will be ready to come off for their final drying before storage. When you remove bean plants be sure to cut them at the base of the plant leaving the roots with all their nitrogen nodules in the ground for next year. Greens love nitrogen, so it’s always a good idea to plant leafy greens where your beans were the year before.
Winter is coming! Stop and enjoy October for all it’s colour and last flush of dahlias, zinnias and asters before jack frost comes and takes them away.