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October Top Allotment Tips

Apple Tree - Queen Cox Self Fertile

The allotment is in transition with a fascinating, mix of late summer and autumn tasks to do this month.
I’ve just finished harvesting the last of my runner beans. The end of this crop always symbolises the passing of   summer as we move towards autumn. However the spent plants are not going to waste and have gone in the compost bin. They will play their part in the cycle of allotment life by releasing nitrogen from their roots helping to make fantastic homemade compost.

My Sweet corn F1 “Swift” is also just about over. It has been a very successful year with this sometimes temperamental crop in the north. Every cob was at least ninety percent pollinated and tantalisingly ripe. Even the wasps have had a go at them in typical fashion. There is no doubt fantastic strides have been made in breeding sweet corn varieties that are more cold-tolerant and quicker to mature. “Swift” is a fine example of one such reliable and deliciously sweet variety.

Later in the month I’m going to harvest some pumpkins much to the delight of my five year old! We will carve one out for Halloween and maybe even some gourds too!

For traditional lanterns I prefer pumpkin F1“Becky” as it isn’t too large for children to carry. For something different, Gourds are real talking point and I don’t think enough people grow them. They are great fun, can be used as mini lanterns or even better as winter decoration.

Pleasingly my two apple trees “Worcester Pearmain” and “Lord Lambourne” have had a good year. Tree fruit adds an extra dimension to any allotment. Excitingly with so many dwarf varieties now such as “Red Sun” even the smallest plot can grow apples either in the ground or indeed a container.

The mixed green manure seed I sowed last month has germinated well and is already growing strongly. There is something especially pleasing about sowing seeds directly in the ground at this time of year. There is still time to sow a further batch, which I intend to do during the month.

My overwintered garlic “Printanor” is now planted. For once I’m ahead of schedule with this task!

I planted the individual cloves in a bed recently manured with well-rotted compost. The top of each clove is level with the soil surface and I’ve covered the bed with netting. This will prevent birds uprooting the cloves before they get established- a common cause of failure.

I much prefer autumn planting for garlic- it tends to result in larger cloves. Over the next week or two it will be the turn of the overwintering onion sets “Senshyu Yellow” to be planted out in a very similar way to the garlic. Well drained fertile soil is key with onion sets. These too will be covered with netting to discourage birds.
All of which goes to show that the nights may be drawing in but we are just as busy as ever down on the allotment.

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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.

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