What to do in your allotment in October

Garlic Bulbs - Kingsland Wight

Written by Lee Senior

October has already nailed its colours firmly to the autumn mast and what colours they are! Blueberries are an underrated star in this department. I love the way they offer a glorious fiery red grand finale, lighting up the fruit garden in late evening sunlight.

This year my sweetcorn is facing a race against time to ripen here in Yorkshire before the weather deteriorates. I hope it’s worth the angst. There’s nothing worse than picking a half formed cob. Sometimes wind pollination is poor, even when the corn has been grown in blocks. Other times a lack of sun means the plants don’t develop enough during midsummer. As long as there are no frosts and we get some October sun, I’m sure the cobs will ripen, albeit rather late.

Allotments really do keep us on our toes and each year something unexpected happens. It’s all part of the fun and means you can never rest on your laurels. Good record-keeping helps so you can keep track of successes and failures as they occur. I like to look back at my notes, especially when it comes to weather. Each day this month I’ll be torn between leaving my sweetcorn to enjoy another day of sun or quickly rescuing it from frostbite. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Happy growing!

Allotment flowers in October

Allotment vegetables in October

Allotment fruit in October

  • Divide your established clumps of rhubarb to produce more crowns and free up your older plants.
  • October is the perfect month for moving fruit bushes and trees, and for planting new bare root fruit trees and soft fruit bushes. Avoid planting into frozen or waterlogged soil and try a grafted apple and pear tree duo if your space is limited.
  • Use a testing kit to see the pH of your soil before planting blueberries. They like acidity, so if your soil is alkali, grow them in a pot with ericaceous compost.

Crops to harvest in October

  • Harvest your pumpkins and squashes this month for carving and storing.
  • Sweetcorn should now be ripe – make sure you harvest before the first frosts hit.
  • October is prime apple harvesting month. Press your windfalls for juice and keep the perfect fruit for storing through the winter.
  • Pick pears slightly before they ripen and bring them inside.
  • Make sure you’ve harvested all of your summer crops and give your onions, shallots and garlic plenty of time to dry before storing.
Crab Apple John Downie from Suttons

Image: Crab Apple John Downie/ Copyright: Floramedia

General October allotment jobs

  • Keep on top of weeding as the beds are exposed to light when crops are cut back.
  • Sow green manure seeds on empty beds to keep the soil covered over winter. This puts nitrogen back into the soil and prevents run-off in heavy rain.
  • It’s time to take down pea and bean wigwams and frames.
  • Sort out your composting area as it’s a great time to add prime fodder to your pile.
  • Find a local source of horse manure. Use an empty bed to rot a pile down for use next year.
  • Try planting a native bare root hedge on your allotment for wildlife. An edible hedge could give you a niche crop of crab apples, sloes and hawes to make jellies and jams.
  • Stay off the soil when the ground is wet. Walk on broad flat planks if you need access to avoid compacting the soil.

Planning ahead

  • Get in as much allotment time after work as possible before the clocks go back later in the month.
  • Order in plant protection gear to prevent frost damage during the winter months.
  • Invest in a cold frame for your plot if you haven’t already got one. They’re a great way to protect young crops from the worst of the winter weather.
  • It’s time to start thinking about next year. Make a list of what worked and what didn’t.
Lead image: Garlic Kingsland Wight
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About Lee Senior
Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn’t resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton” says Lee. “It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn’t have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don’t try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; ‘Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows’ which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book ‘Walking in the Aire’, features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.