Over the past few days, allotments up and down the land have taken on an autumnal feel. The tree foliage is beginning to drop and the days are shortening. There is also a distinct evening chill in the air.
Every visit to the plot seems to bring noticeable changes. My blueberries have taken on a wonderfully striking red tint, a fantastic parting shot for the year, from this most venerable and valuable allotment plant. The runner beans have turned gnarled and stringy and my squash foliage is turning yellow. What a great excuse to harvest them for the winter!
Halloween is on the horizon too despite the spectre of Covid-19. Some things just cannot be changed! I’ve harvested several nice sized pumpkins and I’ve put them in the greenhouse to dry off for a few days before storing them. I’m sure the kids will have great fun carving them into lanterns at the end of the month.
The sweet corn has done unbelievably well here in the north. I’m in the middle of a wonderful harvest of sweet-tasting fully ripened cobs. Let’s hope the frost stays away for a little longer, as sweet corn is best picked and cooked within a few hours for the best hit of sweetness.
Bare-rooted trees, bushes and shrubs
October is my favourite month for planting bare-rooted trees, bushes and shrubs. The foliage won’t appear until springtime but the warmth still in the soil will aide the early establishment of the roots.
Bare-rooted specimens offer a cost-effective way to start a mini orchard or new fruit area on your allotment. They can be planted between October and March as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
If space is limited and you like pears as much as I do, then a duo tree is a brilliant solution. The duo tree ‘Beurre Hardy’/’Williams Bon Chretien’ is excellent, both varieties are full of flavour and the cropping season is slightly extended.
If growing cherries is your thing there is a similar option with the duo tree ‘Napoleon Bigarreau/ Variks Black’.
Family apple trees, family pear trees, cherries, plum & gage can also be purchased as containerised plants. These trees usually have three or more varieties on just one tree. They are also a great space saver and can be planted out throughout much of the year as they have an active root system.
Growing green manure
I’m a big fan of growing green manure over the winter in fallow parts of the allotment or vegetable plot. I’m always amazed why more allotmenteers don’t grow these trouble-free plants. There is still time until mid-October to sow the seed ‘Winter Mix” (Rye & Vetch) scattered broadly by hand.
No seed drills are needed, so it is a quick process finished off by lightly raking friable soil over the seed and gently firming. Coverage is approximately four square metres. Green manures improve soil fertility and structure. They also reduce leaching of soil nutrients on bare soil by winter rains.
During October my topical tasks include continuing to plant out garlic, winter onions and shallots. It is important to cover them with netting until they form roots. This will deter birds from rooting around, looking for grubs and loosening the bulbs in the process. Time and time again, I’ve seen the onion sets and garlic scattered around, sometimes turned upside down.
If your rhubarb clumps are now too large, autumn is the time to tackle it. Left indefinitely, yields can drop and eventually the crown can start to rot in the centre. Large oversized crowns can be divided and cut into good sized pieces. Do make sure each new piece has dormant buds, which will start to grow early next spring. Rhubarb is not a particularly fussy plant. It will grow just about anywhere, apart from waterlogged soil.
Be sure to check out our October Newsletter for more helpful hints & tips!