We are heading into Autumn and our plots could really do with a spring clean! There is a tired, end of season look now on some areas of our plots. At this time of year there is a lot of spent plant foliage and growth. As the month progresses this will increase as many of our summer cropping vegetables come to an end as the weather gradually turns colder.
There is no better time to start filling a new compost bin. Almost all of the above ground plant remains can be composted apart from potato haulms suffering from blight. It is far better to have at least two bins operating at the same time. Ideally one can then be filled and left to rot down, while the other is started on with fresh material and so on.
Overwintered onion sets and garlic can be planted directly this month. Garlic thrives on cold winter weather (it encourages bigger cloves) and the longer growing season given by planting now. It is a similar story with over-wintering Japanese style onions. They are also very hardy and mine have survived the recent severe winters with only minimal fleece or cloche protection. Simply select an area of your plot with good organic matter in the soil and good winter drainage. For allotment beginners, taking on a plot now, these are fantastic crops to grow. They require very little space, or special ground preparation, other than weed removal. They will also grow well in raised beds.
This month plant out over wintering cabbage into their final growing positions. Keep cropping your runner beans as often as you can. During mild spells more beans will still be produced.
When we think about it we ask a lot from our plots over the course of a year. It is therefore essential to enrich the soil when we can. Green manures will help. They are wonderfully easy and do a fine job improving our heavily used soil. At this time of year there will be gaps on our plots and sowing a quick maturing green manure now is well worth the effort. Red Clover is a particular favourite of mine. The resulting green carpet of young plants stops leaching of soil nutrients from heavy winter rains. Some nitrogen will also be added to the soil when the clover is chopped up and dug in during next spring before flowering commences. The seed can be sown easily at a handful per 3grams per square metre, widely broadcast in weed free soil. There is no need for dedicated rows. Lightly rake over and the job is done.