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October Allotment Tips

Apples ready to harvest

The allotment scene is inevitably turning autumnal. I realised this the other day while turning over a patch of soil. I increasingly became aware of spent tree foliage dropping silently around me as I went about my business. Meanwhile, super impressive spider webs glistened in the dank, hazy mornings, as they clung from shoot to shoot on several of my blackcurrant bushes.

Still on the theme of fruit bushes-blueberries are unfailingly stunning in autumn. The fiery red colour they produce in autumn is as good as anything you will find anywhere. Blueberries are a must have on any allotment. They are easy and reliable, just needing a lime-free soil or compost. The fruits are delicious, eaten straight off the bush. My two year old prefers them to sweets! They are cost-effective too as the fruits are not cheap to buy in the supermarket. Autumn is the perfect time to plant the newly bought potted plants on your allotment.

It is noticeable, grass paths have a damp dew on them now- moisture that is increasingly reluctant to clear on all but the sunniest days.

Our plants are responding to the shorter day length accordingly. Growth of our winter crops is slowing a little. Meanwhile, half hardy summer crops such as runner/French beans, sweet corn, squashes are gradually giving up the ghost. They can all be composted when dug up.

Any unripe good sized outdoor tomatoes can be brought indoors to slowly ripen in a cupboard, or used for chutney while green.

In the greenhouse and polytunnel however, the ripening process continues. Tomatoes, sweet peppers and cucumbers will carry on a bit longer until the cold frosty weather comes.

Outdoors, our allotment soil is still inherently warm. Annual weed seeds are therefore still germinating. It is a pleasant October job to gently hoe these off at seedling stage on a dry day.

Keep an eye on your apple and pear trees. Many apple varieties mature in October. Cup the apples in your hand and gently twist to check if they are ready to be picked. Apples that are ready will come away from the tree fairly easily.

The trick with pears is to harvest them just before they are ripe. There is a gradual change in colour from green to a slightly yellowy tinge, when the pear is ready to pick. Use the same picking technique as for apples. Early varieties then need a few days at home to ripen before they are ready to eat. Later types can take several weeks to ripen at home.

Finally, let’s not forget the end of October is Halloween! There are several ideal pumpkins available to grow for the kids to carve into lanterns. My favourite has to be the F1 variety, “Becky”. This one is perfectly sized for carving.

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Lee Senior

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.

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