Friday, September 14, 2012

October in the Community Garden

Hi all fellow community gardeners,
 The Autumn is just upon us so time to do the October work in the garden,have a read for the jobs to be carry out.
South Circular Road Community Garden  Sept.2012

There will still be some vegetables to harvest and store, but your plot will be emptying. As the ground become vacant, dig it over and apply manure over the surface.

October is a good month for double-digging to increase the depth of your topsoil and incorporate manure. If you don't need to dig over the plot, why not plant a green manure to overwinter.


By now the maincrop potatoes should be ready. As the foliage dies back you can cut this off and leave the potatoes for a couple of weeks. This will prevent any stray blight spores from infecting your crop. Wait for a sunny dry day and dig up the potatoes, brushing off excess soil and letting them dry 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 leave the roots with their nitrogen full nodules in the soil as a fertiliser.

Carrots can come up to be stored in sand or peat through the winter but leave the parsnips in the ground. They'll be sweeter after a frost.

Cabbages should come up now too, they'll keep remarkably well in that frost-free shed but beware the slug that may be lurking under the leaves. Sprinkling the outside with salt will deter them from eating away through the winter.

Any green tomatoes on outdoor plants may as well come in now before the frost gets them. You can make a green tomato chutney or ripen them up indoors. Green tomatoes will actually store quite well in cool conditions and slowly ripen or you can hasten the ripening process by popping them in a tray in a sunny windowsill with a ripe banana.

General Jobs in the Garden

As ground becomes vacant you can dig it over and spread manure over the surface. Leave the soil roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break these up as they get the manure. The freezing and thawing of water in the soil will cause the soil to break up finely so becoming easier to handle in the spring.

October and November are good months to undertake double digging, incorporating manure into the bottom of the trench and deepening your topsoil.

With finer soils where digging each year is not necessary, you can plant a green manure crop to overwinter such as field beans.

Dig in any green manure crops such as mustard that you planted earlier in the year.

Your compost bins will be filling up as the last of the crops come in so now is a good time to give them a turn to help even decomposition and cover them to keep them warm and damp rather than soaking wet. If you've got a comfrey patch you may as well take the last cut and add to the heap to activate it.

The leaves will start to fall very shortly and these are a valuable resource. Prepare for them by building a leaf mould cage. Very simple to do, you just drive four stakes into the ground and staple chicken netting around to make the cage. Pile in the leaves and leave them alone for a year. You will find the pile reduces by two thirds at least, so keep filling the bin as more leaves fall. If you have one those marvellous garden vacuum mulchers that suck up leaves and chop them, you will find the leaves rot down much more quickly. Watch out for council sweepers, they may just drop you a load of leaves when they call to collect a few veggies off you.

Sowing, Planting and Cultivating

It's not too late to plant out Japanese onion sets, these are hardy and will overwinter producing a crop about a month earlier than the spring planted onions. A cloche or fleece covering will get them off to a good start and stop the birds from pulling them out.

You can plant your garlic now although this job will hold over into November easily. If you have time and the weather is fine, it's worth doing it when you can because who knows what November's weather will be?

You can sow broad beans now to get them off to an early start next year, but in colder areas it may be better to wait until spring as germination is more patchy on winter sowings. Better late than never.

Remove any yellowing leaves from over-wintering brassicas, they are of no use to the plant and will encourage botrytis to develop.


When the strawberries have finished tidy up the bed, cut off the tops, remove dead leaves, rotting berries you missed under the foliage and remove self-planted runners.

Fruit bushes such as black- and redcurrants should be pruned, as should the gooseberries. Now and November are good months to attend to the raspberries, blackberries, etc. It's also a good time to plant new canes, adding some compost and 8oz per square yard or 250 grams per square metre of bonemeal to keep them well fed.

In the greenhouse

If you've not already done so, now's the time for a good clean out. Take out all those pots and bits you've left in there and put them in the shed – you can tidy that up later!

Next it's time to wash the greenhouse down, a little detergent and disinfectant and a scrubbing brush. Getting the glass clean will allow more light through in the dark days and cleaning the frame will remove pests looking for a good spot to spend the winter.

If you are going to be using the greenhouse through the winter, you can now insulate it. Bubble wrap is good or heatsheets will do the job. Don't forget you will still need some ventilation or mould will run riot in the house.

You can also sow a hardy lettuce like Arctic King and grow them on in your border to give you a salad whatever the weather. 

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, with the growing season coming to an end. The temperature is dropping, the days shortening with the clocks going back at the end of October. By November we'll have seen the first frosts.

·         Harvest and enjoy your fresh, home-grown fruits and vegetables. Store your root crops carefully and freeze or make jams and chutneys with gluts of other vegetables and fruits.

·         As you harvest and the ground is cleared, start soil preparation for the following year, digging and adding manure as required.

·         Clear up any fallen leaves and either make leaf mould or compost them.

·         If you will be using your greenhouse over the winter, wash it down inside and out before adding insulation.

·         Plant fruit trees and bushes to give them time to establish before winter starts.

·         Make sure that all trees are securely staked, to avoid root rock and damage during winter storms.

·         Remember to check your stored vegetables from time to time and remove any that show signs of rotting before the damage spreads.

Growing in a Polytunnel in October

October is the month for clearing and tidying. Your cucumbers and courgettes are likely to be finished and many other plants are getting exhausted and diseased, but hopefully you have a batch of new salad crops ready to plant out now. I always enjoy this time of year becomes the tunnel or greenhouse becomes completely transformed and rejuvenated again.

Sowing in the Polytunnel

Direct sowing into beds There is now plenty of space again for sowing directly into the beds. Any salad crop can be sown directly into the ground now or sown into modules for planting out later. The decision is yours.

Planting into beds
I always look forward to planting out the garlic cloves into the beds in October. If you plant them in early October they will be ready and harvested in May just in time before your tomatoes need to be planted. You can also plant overwintering onion sets.

Sowing into modules/pots (18-20˚C)

The best time for your overwintering salads was really in September, but if you have missed that date you can still sow them now. They may not be ready before the end of the year but will produce well in late winter until early spring.

·         Claytonia (or Winter Purslane) – 5 seeds per cell

·         Chervil, Coriander, Dill – 5 seeds per cell each

·         Oriental brassica salads (all types) – 5 seeds per cell

·         Scallions (Ishikura Bunching) – 10 seeds per cell

·         Spinach (annual) – 4 seeds per cell

Harvesting from the Polytunnel

In October the summer crops are fizzling out and their quality declines. You may still harvest some:

Aubergines, basil, calabrese, coriander, Chinese cabbage, courgette, cucumber, dill, Florence fennel, French beans, lettuce, melons, oriental brassica salads, pak choi, parsley, peppers, salads, scallions, spinach and tomatoes.

General Polytunnel maintenance

·         Hardly water at all - once a week at the most.
·         Ventilate as much as possible.
·         Clear all remaining summer crops. Don’t leave any of their crop residues in your tunnel or greenhouse otherwise their      relevant pests and diseases will be carried over to the new crops.

·         Start chitting your first early potatoes indoors.
·         Continue harvesting your winter salads.
·         Prepare the soil for the early spring crops by incorporating compost or composted manure into the soil.
·         Tidy and clean the tunnel or greenhouse: wash the plastic or glass, clean and tidy away the pots and trays.
·         Clean your tools and rub boiled linseed oil onto the handles and a mixture of old oil and diesel to get rid of rust on metal blades.
·         Order your seeds, seed potatoes, onion sets and garlic bulbs


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.