Sunflower

Sunflower

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Swift nest boxes

Hi all,
           Please find some useful information on Swifts.Hope you enjoy the information as I hope this will spur your interest in protecting our Swifts when they come back next year 2015 as they are finding it difficult to find nesting sites due to the building boom, and disturbance of existing nesting areas.

Willie

    Common Swift (Apus Apus) Guidance
Habitat: Swift nests are generally located high up on the roof space under the eaves of old houses, historic and industrial buildings, where the swifts are able to drop into the air from the nest entrance. The nest is constructed from  material such as hay, paper, feathers and seeds collected in flight, and then cemented together with their saliva. Once swifts have identified and occupied a nest site, they will use it for the rest of their lives, if it stays available.
Legislation: Swifts and their nests are fully protected which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild birds. It is also an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the eggs, young or nest of a swift whilst it is being built or in use.

 Identification: The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird which is dark brown in colour with a whitish patch on their throat; although in flight against the sky it can appear black. Swifts have long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. The feet are specially adapted to grasp onto vertical surfaces, meaning that when the common swift roosts, it can occupy habitats like chimneys and building eaves, which other birds cannot. Swifts are summer visitors, breeding in Ireland between May and July, staying on average only 100 days, as they migrate back to South Africa for the winter.

Threats: The main threat to Swifts is the considerable loss of suitable nesting sites.

Renovations and building works:
Swifts are extremely vulnerable as they are very site specific. Nest sites can be destroyed via buildings being demolished, renovated, reroofed, or even being repaired. The use of PVC or plastic fascia’s and soffits are not viable for swift nests unless holes are cut to replicate the original nest sites before the PVC was fitted.

Blocking Access:
Blocking access to a nest not only prevents swifts from returning to the nest the following year but may trap swifts inside causing them to starve and possibly die. The loss of a nest to a swift is detrimental as swifts are very site faithful, therefore may spend another couple of summers trying to find a suitable nest.

Don’t
Ø   Disturb a nest
Ø   Obstruct access to a nest
Ø   Undertake work that could damage
Ø   Nest
Ø   
Do
Ø   Stop work and advise your supervisor/manager if you suspect swifts/swift nests in your area of work
Ø   Inform relevant staff/contractors of the presence of any nests that need to be accommodated
Ø   Work with a specialist consultant on any mitigation work

Swift Signs
Swifts tend to be most active in good weather and can be seen in Ireland between May and the end of July. Aside from sightings, evidence of their presence in an area can be obtained by identification of their droppings. Generally below a swift nest along the wall of a building, small white streaks (bird droppings) are often visible, indicating the presence of swifts in the building.
Timing
Surveys:
Surveys can be carried out during the summer, generally from the beginning of May to the end of July. Ideal conditions to survey would be on a warm summer’s evening after 8pm. In order to identify a nesting site, a large concentration of swifts needs to be identified first. By following this colony, they should move into their nesting site where ‘screaming’ and swooping occurs. This is used by swifts as a defensive technique against other swifts and a way to bond with the colony.

Mitigation:
Managing habitats and structures appropriately is a key element to swift conservation. Best practice is to leave nest sites undisturbed; however if rebuild or renovation is necessary, leave existing holes or make sure new identical access holes are made. When replacing or designing new buildings, the provision for swifts should be made, for example the insertion of external nest bricks could be incorporated or various built in or external nest boxes. Any of the useful web links noted below can be used as great resources for this.

SOME FACTS ABOUT SWIFTS
• They eat, drink, preen, sleep and mate while flying
• Their scientific name is Apus apus, that means ‘no foot no foot’
• Actually, they have small feet with sharp claws which they only use at their nest site.
Swifts have been around a long time; one of their ancestors, who died 49 million years ago, was found in Germany.
They fly about 500 miles (800kms) a day. During their lives, they fly about 2 million miles - equivalent to more than four trips to the Moon and back! They eat flying insects like flies, mosquitoes, midges, and greenflies as well as airborne spiders.
• They come to Europe each summer arriving in this country at the end of April/ beginning of May
• They make their way back to Africa in August
• A round trip of 1400 miles!
• They are one of the very best fliers
• They have very rapid wing-beats: 8 wing-beats per second, followed by gliding and zooming about at very high speed, usually screaming as they go
• You will hear and see ‘screaming parties’ around the houses.
• At night they sleep as high as 3,000 metres
• They approach their nests at more than 40 miles per hour and come to a stop without slowing down
• They do not normally land on the ground because it is difficult for them to take off.
FAMILY LIFE
• Swifts usually stay with the same partners for their whole lives
• They can live for at least 21 years!
• Mostly, their nests are in spaces under roofs and nooks and crannies in old buildings.
• They catch bits of stuff from the air, like feathers, leaves, petals and pieces of paper, then stick them together to make a cosy nest for laying their eggs
• They lay white eggs, usually 2 or 3
• Both partners take it in turns to sit on the eggs to keep them warm until they hatch
• The eggs hatch after about 18 days.
SWIFT CHICKS
• When the chicks hatch, they are blind and have no feathers
• Many times a day, the male and female bring the chicks balls of 300-500 insects, collected in a big pouch under the beak
• The chicks open their eyes about 6 days after hatching
• Their feathers grow and they get quite fat.
Chicks have an area of white around their beaks so the parents can see them in the dark nests.
• The chicks stop eating and lose weight before they leave the nest - you can’t fly if you are too fat!
• They do push-ups on their wings and tails to make them strong enough for flying
• Once they can hold a push-up for 10 seconds and they weigh about 45 grams, they are ready to fly away; they are 6-8 weeks old when they leave.

If you find a grounded Swift
Most grounded Swifts are likely to be fledglings that have fallen out of the nest before they are ready to fly, so they will need fostering. Occasionally an adult will meet with an accident and plummet to the ground, in which case it may need rehabilitating. If you find a grounded Swift, the priority is to make it safe by carefully picking it up and putting it in a box, then closing the lid to enable it to calm down. Swifts are difficult to care for, as they need a special diet. Swifts are not for beginners, so your next step should be to get in touch with someone who is a specialist in this field. If you pick up an adult and consider that it is ready to fly, the technique for releasing it safely is not to throw it into the air, but to hold it in the palms of your hands, raise your hands high and the bird should go. Make sure you are releasing it INTO the wind, and choose a place where, if it should come to ground again, you can easily find it.

You will find comprehensive advice on the following websites:
SOME USEFUL WEBSITES
http//swiftconservationireland.blogspot.ie
http//actionsforswifts.blogspot.ie
www.swift-conservation.org
www.saveourswifts.co.uk
www.commonswift.org
www.concernforswifts.com
www.bwi.ie
www.iwt.ie
www.irishwildlifematters.ie

Useful Web Links
Swift Conservation, Bird Watch Ireland, www.swift-conservation.org, Northern Ireland Swift Group, www.saveourswifts.co.uk, General Information, www.commonswift.org/common_swift.html
http://swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm
http://www.commonswift.org/Veterinary-Help-for-Common-Swifts.html
http://www.commonswift.org/Hand_rearing_Swifts.html
The DSPCA or your nearest wildlife hospital may be another source of help.


SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
• Swifts nest in old buildings
• Old buildings are being knocked down or repaired
• New buildings have no nooks and crannies for Swifts
• So when Swifts arrive back from Africa to raise a new family, they find their nesting places have gone - they are homeless!


SO HOW CAN WE ALL HELP SWIFTS
Leave existing nest sites undisturbed
• When repairing buildings, make sure new access holes match exactly the location of the old ones
• When providing new nest sites make internal nest spaces, as they last longer
• If you can’t make internal spaces, put up nest boxes
• Tell Swift Conservation Ireland where you see Swifts nesting.
       Email: swiftconservationireland@gmail.com







Saturday, August 9, 2014

September in the Allotment/Garden

Hi all,
           Well we are well into the seasons now, hope you are having a good harvest in your plot or community garden. I am now doing the September write up for in the garden/plot.Have a good read and hope it is of benefit to you.

Willie


Allotment & Vegetable Gardening in September 2014

September is the end of summer although we're often lucky to have  a bit more summer  and sunshine, nothing is certain with the weather. The bulk of the harvest comes home now and as crops come out the plot begins to empty

Harvest

The main crop potatoes should be ready now. To repeat August's advice regarding harvesting potatoes:
When you harvest your potatoes take care to remove all the tubers. Any left will not only sprout next year and becomes a weed but will also be a reservoir for disease and potato blight spores. It's often worth forking over a few days after harvesting potatoes because more seem to miraculously appear.
If blight has struck your potatoes the best method to preserve the crop is to remove the haulm and dispose of it then leave the potatoes in the ground for a fortnight or longer to stop the spores getting onto the tubers.
It's best to harvest potatoes fairly early in the day, rinse them off as they come from the ground and then leave in the sunlight for a day to thoroughly dry off and harden the skins before storing.
Sort carefully and place perfect specimens into hessian or paper sacks in a cool dark but frost free place. Damaged tubers should be used first before they have a chance to rot and spread their rot to the rest of the sack.
It's worthwhile to empty the sacks after a few weeks or a month and check that there are no potatoes going off. Discard these before they rot the sack. You might like to pop a few slug pellets into the sacks as well. It's amazing how the slugs can appear no matter how careful you are. If you are concerned about slug pellets, remember these are in store and present no risk to wildlife.
You may well have reasonably sized parsnips now but they will stay perfectly happy in the ground and do taste better after they have had a frost on them.
The runner beans and French beans will be continuing to produce and the last of the peas should be coming in. Compost the foliage of the peas but leave the roots in the ground as the nodules on them contain nitrogen.
The harvest will be in full swing and in addition to the above you should have:
  • Beetroot
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflowers
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • Globe Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Marrows
  • Onions
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Spring Onions
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
 From the greenhouse you should be picking aubergines, chilli and sweet peppers as well as cucumbers and tomatoes.If you grow fruit then the picking should be in full swing there as well:
Apples, pears, plums, peaches from the trees, blackberries and raspberries from the canes and strawberries from the bed.  

Sowing, Planting and Cultivating

Sowing

There's not a great deal to sow now but surprisingly it's the right time to sow winter lettuces such as Arctic King for spring harvests.
The other salad crop is the winter hardy spring onion. I'd suggest White Lisbon but ensure it is the winter hardy version.

Green Manure

Early September is the time to sow green manures. If you do not need to dig over your plot as you do with heavy soils or intend to spread manure on a patch then following on the last of a crop with a green manure is a great idea.
The first benefit is that the green manure will hold onto soil fertility that would otherwise be washed out by the winter rains. In fact, sowing a legume such as Winter Tares will fix nitrogen from the air.
Secondly, they will prevent weed growth so you will have less work to do.
Finally they help improve the soil structure. In the spring you just need to dig over and allow them to rot down for a few weeks.
One of the best green manures for winter growth is Hungarian grazing rye. It continues to grow, albeit slowly, in cold weather and should be around 15" tall come the spring from an early September sowing. Not only will you have a lush mass of foliage but it also produces a mass of roots that will provide humus for bacterial breakdown.

Planting Out

Your spring cabbage plants can be planted out now and over wintering (Japanese) onion sets can go in for an early onion harvest.
You can plant out garlic as well although I prefer to plant it out later in the year.

Cultivating

Keep feeding your tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It's not really worthwhile feeding other plants at this time of year as they are nearly finished and the nutrients are best saved for the spring. Keep the side shoots in check on the tomatoes.

Fruit

Tidy up the summer fruiting raspberries, cutting off the canes that have fruited and tying in the new shoots that will bear next year.
The summer fruiting strawberries can be attended to now as well. Cut off the foliage about 1" from the ground, clearing and weeding as you go. Any runners can be planted up to replace 3 year old plants that are best replaced now.

General Tasks

Keep an eye on your brassicas for butterfly eggs and caterpillars, these will most probably be under the leaves. The greenhouse pests should be declining but keep an eye out if the weather is good.

Making Compost

If you've not already done so, empty your compost bins. The compost that is ready can be spread on the ground and the compost only partially rotted returned to the bin to finish off.
You will probably have quite a bit of foliage ready to compost and building a heap properly will help the transformation from green waste to valuable compost. At the base of the heap place woody material, sweetcorn stalks etc to allow some airflow up into the heap. Next place a six inch layer of green material and add some sulphate of ammonia or dried blood to add nitrogen. Just a small sprinkling is sufficient, about 50g per square metre (2oz per square yard) is about right.
Another layer of green material but this time lightly sprinkle with lime to keep the pH up. Repeat the process and top off with a piece of old carpet or some plastic sheeting to stop it getting too wet in the rain and to keep the heat in.
The heap should heat up after a few days and be ready to turn in four or six weeks. The smaller the particles the more surface area they have relative to weight and the faster they will decompose. If you have a shredder, this will be ideal but otherwise cut things up with shears, crush things like brassica stems and they will go down much faster.
If you don't have a shredder but do have a hover mower you can lay foliage on the lawn and run over it with the mower to shred it.




































Monday, July 21, 2014

Evening to all,
                      South Circular Road Community Garden participated in the St Annes park Rose festival on Sunday 20 July 2014 along with the Dublin Community Growers. Please see photos by of this event.We did a workshop on Swift nest boxes which members of the public help to assemble, and we provided general information on the Swift and how we can help them.
 
Members of Dublin Community Growers

WALK selling their wares 

Dublin Community Grower member (Robert) manning the information desk.

Notice board of different workshops events.

Right hand side view

Center view

Left side view

Work shop area and information 
A big Thank You to all who help out and manned the stalls.All photos by Willie A Brennan
  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Herbal worthshop

Hi all,
          On the 12 July 2014 I visited the Serenity Community Garden which were holding a Herbal workshop run by the Green Community`s of An Taisce.The weather held up all day for the workshop. I attach some photo`s of this event.A Big Thank you to the Serenity garden volunteers who made all who attend the workshop welcome and served some light refreshments. We are surrounded by so many different types of plants/weeds(Weeds are plants who virtue has not been discovered yet),we can use to our mutual benefit in a more environmental and friendly way to the betterment of our planet Earth.
Willie Brennan
South Circular Road Community Garden  
















Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hi all,
           Please see information on Swifts in Ireland and how we can help them, to continue visiting our towns and city`s and country side.
 

Common Swift (Apus Apus) Guidance
Habitat: Swift nests are generally located high up on the roof space under the eaves of old houses, historic and industrial buildings, where the swifts are able to drop into the air from the nest entrance. The nest is constructed from  material such as hay, paper, feathers and seeds collected in flight, and then cemented together with their saliva. Once swifts have identified and occupied a nest site, they will use it for the rest of their lives, if it stays available.
Legislation: Swifts and their nests are fully protected which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild birds. It is also an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the eggs, young or nest of a swift whilst it is being built or in use.

 Identification: The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird which is dark brown in colour with a whitish patch on their throat; although in flight against the sky it can appear black. Swifts have long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. The feet are specially adapted to grasp onto vertical surfaces, meaning that when the common swift roosts, it can occupy habitats like chimneys and building eaves, which other birds cannot. Swifts are summer visitors, breeding in Ireland between May and July, staying on average only 100 days, as they migrate back to South Africa for the winter.

Threats: The main threat to Swifts is the considerable loss of suitable nesting sites.

Renovations and building works:
Swifts are extremely vulnerable as they are very site specific. Nest sites can be destroyed via buildings being demolished, renovated, reroofed, or even being repaired. The use of PVC or plastic fascia’s and soffits are not viable for swift nests unless holes are cut to replicate the original nest sites before the PVC was fitted.

Blocking Access:
Blocking access to a nest not only prevents swifts from returning to the nest the following year but may trap swifts inside causing them to starve and possibly die. The loss of a nest to a swift is detrimental as swifts are very site faithful, therefore may spend another couple of summers trying to find a suitable nest.

Don’t
Ø   Disturb a nest
Ø   Obstruct access to a nest
Ø   Undertake work that could damage
Ø   Nest
Ø   
Do
Ø   Stop work and advise your supervisor/manager if you suspect swifts/swift nests in your area of work
Ø   Inform relevant staff/contractors of the presence of any nests that need to be accommodated
Ø   Work with a specialist consultant on any mitigation work

Swift Signs
Swifts tend to be most active in good weather and can be seen in Ireland between May and the end of July. Aside from sightings, evidence of their presence in an area can be obtained by identification of their droppings. Generally below a swift nest along the wall of a building, small white streaks (bird droppings) are often visible, indicating the presence of swifts in the building.



Timing
Surveys:
Surveys can be carried out during the summer, generally from the beginning of May to the end of July. Ideal conditions to survey would be on a warm summer’s evening after 8pm. In order to identify a nesting site, a large concentration of swifts needs to be identified first. By following this colony, they should move into their nesting site where ‘screaming’ and swooping occurs. This is used by swifts as a defensive technique against other swifts and a way to bond with the colony.

Mitigation:
Managing habitats and structures appropriately is a key element to swift conservation. Best practice is to leave nest sites undisturbed; however if rebuild or renovation is necessary, leave existing holes or make sure new identical access holes are made. When replacing or designing new buildings, the provision for swifts should be made, for example the insertion of external nest bricks could be incorporated or various built in or external nest boxes. Any of the useful web links noted below can be used as great resources for this.

SOME FACTS ABOUT SWIFTS
• They eat, drink, preen, sleep and mate while flying
• Their scientific name is Apus apus, that means ‘no foot no foot’
• Actually, they have small feet with sharp claws which they only use at their nest site.
Swifts have been around a long time; one of their ancestors, who died 49 million years ago, was found in Germany.
They fly about 500 miles (800kms) a day. During their lives, they fly about 2 million miles - equivalent to more than four trips to the Moon and back! They eat flying insects like flies, mosquitoes, midges, and greenflies as well as airborne spiders.
• They come to Europe each summer arriving in this country at the end of April/ beginning of May
• They make their way back to Africa in August
• A round trip of 1400 miles!
• They are one of the very best fliers
• They have very rapid wing-beats: 8 wing-beats per second, followed by gliding and zooming about at very high speed, usually screaming as they go
• You will hear and see ‘screaming parties’ around the houses.
• At night they sleep as high as 3,000 metres
• They approach their nests at more than 40 miles per hour and come to a stop without slowing down
• They do not normally land on the ground because it is difficult for them to take off.

FAMILY LIFE
• Swifts usually stay with the same partners for their whole lives
• They can live for at least 21 years!
• Mostly, their nests are in spaces under roofs and nooks and crannies in old buildings.
• They catch bits of stuff from the air, like feathers, leaves, petals and pieces of paper, then stick them together to make a cosy nest for laying their eggs
• They lay white eggs, usually 2 or 3
• Both partners take it in turns to sit on the eggs to keep them warm until they hatch
• The eggs hatch after about 18 days.

SWIFT CHICKS
• When the chicks hatch, they are blind and have no feathers
• Many times a day, the male and female bring the chicks balls of 300-500 insects, collected in a big pouch under the beak
• The chicks open their eyes about 6 days after hatching
• Their feathers grow and they get quite fat.
Chicks have an area of white around their beaks so the parents can see them in the dark nests.
• The chicks stop eating and lose weight before they leave the nest - you can’t fly if you are too fat!
• They do push-ups on their wings and tails to make them strong enough for flying
• Once they can hold a push-up for 10 seconds and they weigh about 45 grams, they are ready to fly away; they are 6-8 weeks old when they leave.

If you find a grounded Swift
Most grounded Swifts are likely to be fledglings that have fallen out of the nest before they are ready to fly, so they will need fostering. Occasionally an adult will meet with an accident and plummet to the ground, in which case it may need rehabilitating. If you find a grounded Swift, the priority is to make it safe by carefully picking it up and putting it in a box, then closing the lid to enable it to calm down. Swifts are difficult to care for, as they need a special diet. Swifts are not for beginners, so your next step should be to get in touch with someone who is a specialist in this field. If you pick up an adult and consider that it is ready to fly, the technique for releasing it safely is not to throw it into the air, but to hold it in the palms of your hands, raise your hands high and the bird should go. Make sure you are releasing it INTO the wind, and choose a place where, if it should come to ground again, you can easily find it.

You will find comprehensive advice on the following websites:
SOME USEFUL WEBSITES
http//swiftconservationireland.blogspot.ie
http//actionsforswifts.blogspot.ie
www.swift-conservation.org
www.saveourswifts.co.uk
www.commonswift.org
www.concernforswifts.com
www.bwi.ie
www.iwt.ie
www.irishwildlifematters.ie

Useful Web Links
Swift Conservation, Bird Watch Ireland, www.swift-conservation.org, Northern Ireland Swift Group, www.saveourswifts.co.uk, General Information, www.commonswift.org/common_swift.html
http://swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm
http://www.commonswift.org/Veterinary-Help-for-Common-Swifts.html
http://www.commonswift.org/Hand_rearing_Swifts.html
The DSPCA or your nearest wildlife hospital may be another source of help.


SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
• Swifts nest in old buildings
• Old buildings are being knocked down or repaired
• New buildings have no nooks and crannies for Swifts
• So when Swifts arrive back from Africa to raise a new family, they find their nesting places have gone - they are homeless!


SO HOW CAN WE ALL HELP SWIFTS
Leave existing nest sites undisturbed
• When repairing buildings, make sure new access holes match exactly the location of the old ones
• When providing new nest sites make internal nest spaces, as they last longer
• If you can’t make internal spaces, put up nest boxes
• Tell Swift Conservation Ireland where you see Swifts nesting.
       Email: swiftconservationireland@gmail.com







The simplest DIY Swift nest-box
 The whole thing is assembled from a single plank, and straight saw-cuts.




Buy a plank 180cm x 15cm x 15mm thick and cut it into pieces: (4 x 375mm, 2 x 120mm, 1 x 40mm).  You should have a small bit left over. Then saw out the entrance from 1 of the long pieces (2cuts 80mm & 45mm resulting in an entrance 65mm x 30mm).
The material can be weather-proof ply or pine. In either case, the wood should be treated externally with a
wood sealant or leave as a natural  wood  look which may not last as long.  Then assemble all of the pieces, except for the front, using nails, glue or screws. The front should be screwed on, without nails or glue, so that it can be removed for maintenance and for installation. Installation is by 2 screws through the back into the wall.





Position flush with soffit.
Under the eaves is an ideal place for Swifts
The canopy above the entrance is narrow with a sloping top. It provides some shelter (as well as 'decoration'), but it does not allow predators to perch on it.

This box should not be put anywhere where the rain or sun can fall upon it, so it is only appropriate under horizontal eaves, which are at least 200mm wide.

[Hint, when you make the entrance, aim on the small side, you can always take a file to the edges to make it a little larger. If you make it too large, Starlings will get in].
Entrance made with cuts of 80mm by 30mm






  











     

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October in the Community garden

Welcome to the October work to be done or finished off in the community garden. Try to get any work done while the weather if good and remember to keep on top of the work load. Start to leave seeds out of the wild birds and be careful as you go clearing up debris in the garden you are not disturbing any hibernating Hedgehogs etc. 
 Willie
Vegetable & Fruit October Growing Guide

October is really the last of the hectic months on the vegetable plot. There's little to sow and plant but still a fair amount to harvest and store away to eat through winter. This is the month when the first frosts usually arrive so killing off all but the hardy plants.

Sowing & Planting in October on the Vegetable Plot

Over-wintered broad beans can go in from the middle of the month to provide an early crop next year. Whilst they're very hardy, they don't like sitting in water so on heavy soils they can be a gamble and you may prefer to just sow early on next year. The last sowing of beet leaf spinach can be made early in the month and you may be able to just fit in some Chinese cabbage. October is the last chance for planting out Japanese onion sets. These are hardy, short-daylight onions so will bulb up about a month earlier next year than the normal onions but they don't store as well so go for a smaller quantity rather than larger. It's worth protecting them with a cloche or netting until well established as they hold a magnetic attraction for pigeons who seem to delight in pulling them from the ground and throwing them to the side. You can plant out garlic in October but generally it's a November job. However, if the weather turns nasty then you'll have one less task to do outside.

General Garden Tasks for October

There's not a lot to do except for keeping weeds in check with the established crops. If you've got Brussels sprouts it's worth checking they're firm in the ground as wind-rock breaks the tiny hairs on the roots that take in the nutrients. Earthing up a few cm around the stems and treading in or staking should be enough. In very windy areas a wind break can save the day.

If the leaves are looking a little yellow, apply a high nitrogen liquid feed around each plant and this should perk them up enough to ensure good firm sprouts for Christmas. With other brassicas, remove any yellowed leaves as they are of no use to the plant and will encourage botrytis to develop.

If you've a green manure crop like mustard mature, now is the time to dig it in. Generally find mustard produces a lot of foliage which can be cut with shears about a 30cm off the ground. Compost the cut foliage and dig in the rest.

As ground becomes vacant, you can dig it over, with heavy clay soils just leave the clods unbroken and the freezing / thawing action of winter weather will break them up, giving you a fine tilt to work with in the spring. Spread manure or compost over the surface and leave for the worms to drag down into the ground or lime if appropriate.

October and November are good months for serious digging. The deeper the fertile soil, the better crops that can be had. Double digging where you remove a trench and then break up the sub-soil with a fork prior to adding a good layer of manure or compost and then place the soil from the next trench on top will greatly improve your soil. With light deep soils that don't benefit from annual digging, sow a green manure like field beans that will hold the nutrients in the soil over winter until spring when you dig them in to add both humus and nutrients.

Now is the time to concentrate on your compost making. The last of the bulk foliage should be available to build a proper heap rather than a waste pile. Emptying one bin into another, layering with lime and nitrogen rich manure as it builds, will ensure decomposition gets off to a good start.

Consider where you intend to plant your runner beans and start a bean trench, digging it out and lining with newspapers (six sheets thick) before adding compostable kitchen waste, lawn clippings etc. and covering with soil.

Fruit

This is a good month to prune your blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries. Your raspberries and blackberries need cutting back, tying in etc. and these early winter months are ideal for planting out new stock. Make sure the ground is well prepared and add a good 500gr of bone meal per plant to the base of the planting hole, forked in. This will slowly release its nitrogen over the next year or two giving stronger plants earlier

October Greenhouse Tasks

If you've still got crops, open the vents on fine days to avoid developing a muggy atmosphere which encourages fungal diseases. As tomatoes etc. finish, clear them out and wash any old pots etc. before putting them away. If you can, give the house a good clean with a little detergent and disinfectant and a scrubbing brush. Clean glass will allow more light through in the dark days and cleaning the frame will remove pests looking for a good spot to over-winter. Once clean you can insulate it. Bubble wrap is good or heat sheets will do the job. Sow a hardy lettuce like Arctic King and grow in your greenhouse border to give you a salad whatever the weather.

Harvest

Any remaining main crop potatoes should be ready. When the haulm (leaves) starts dying back you cut it off and leave the potatoes for a couple of weeks. This will make the skins set and hopefully prevent any stray blight spores from the haulm infecting your tubers. Wait for a sunny dry day and dig up the potatoes, brushing off excess soil and letting them dry off before storing in hessian or paper sacks in a frost free, dark shed.

The last of the beans should be picked now, compost the foliage but leaving the roots with their nitrogen full nodules in the soil will act as a fertiliser.

Main crop carrots should be dug up to be stored in sand or peat through the winter but leave the parsnips in the ground as they'll be sweeter after a frost.

Drumhead cabbages that are ready should be harvested. They'll keep remarkably well in a frost-free shed but be aware that a slug that may be lurking under the leaves. Sprinkling the outside with salt will deter them from eating away through the winter.

South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project

The South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project started in April 2007. We have a derelict site on loan from ST Salvage Company that we have converted into a community food garden. This is a continuation of the initial successful Dolphins Barn Community squatted food garden that was on the canal from 2005 -2007.