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Top October Allotment Tips

sweetcorn swift

The nights are closing in and I’m trying to visit my allotment as much as possible during early evening while the light holds. The plan is to do as many small jobs as possible before BST ends and the clocks go back on October 29th.

Last week I sowed two types of winter lettuce seed in my unheated greenhouse. The first is Cos lettuce “Winter Density” which is a reliable tried and tested variety I’ve grown a lot over the years. Some will be kept over winter in the cold frame for planting out in spring. The other is winter type “Vailan” a Winter Gem type, which I’ll also sow a second tray of in late October.  These will be grown on to hopefully reach maturity over the winter and early spring in containers in the greenhouse, to pick as small lettuce.

I also prefer this time of year for sowing sweet peas for overwintering in the cold greenhouse. The varieties “Long Stem Mixed” and the slightly more dwarf variety “Fragrant Tide Mix” are just two out of many types that can be sown now. The benefits of autumn sown peas are the plants will flower earlier next summer due to their superior roots.

Sweet Pea Fragrant Tide

Sweet Pea Fragrant Tide Mix

During early October I’ll make a start on planting my garlic and winter onions on my plot. I will also start a few in the cold greenhouse in trays as back up.  We seem to be suffering a proliferation of cats at the moment on our allotment site. With that in mind and I’ll cover the rows with netting. This also will deter birds from rummaging around disturbing the bulbs before they root.


Garlic Edenrose

Slugs were unseasonably rampant on my plot, during late September, encouraged by mild damp weather. Some established and almost mature cabbages have been badly attacked along with a number of spring cabbage transplants. Several allotment friends of mine have had a lot of success this year with the natural slug control “Slug Gone” These sheep wool pellets form a protective long lasting barrier that can last many months. They eventually break down and enrich the soil too. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. Critically they are safer for wildlife including hedgehogs.

The warmer than average September weather has been great for pumpkins, squashes and courgettes, both of which are still growing strongly. Both interestingly have been largely untouched by slugs. Meanwhile I’ve been continuing with the autumn tidying up process on my plot.  I’ve removed and composted the last of my sweet corn plants along with my spent runner and French beans.

Autumn is the best time to plant bare root fruit trees (also ornamental trees). They should be planted in previously prepared well-drained double-dug ground, rich in well rotted organic matter. Avoid planting when the ground is waterlogged or frozen. When your trees arrive, unpack them immediately and keep the roots moist in a cool place. It is essential to plant them as soon as possible.

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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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