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Top October Allotment Tips

sweetcorn swift

The lovely spell of weather in mid-September gave the perfect opportunity to get on top of those pesky seasonal allotment jobs. By the end of the month the weather had changed dramatically!

Before the rains, I’d been clearing out the last of my broad beans and peas. Initially, I chopped the stems down and left them on the soil for a week or two as a kind of mulch. They soon shrivelled into half their size. I gathered the remaining brown material for the compost heap. I’ll be doing a similar thing with sweet corn and runner beans. This tactic restricts the late flush of weeds that can happen in damp weather. It also saves time if you are in rush.

Given drier weather, garlic can be planted directly outdoors until the end of November. Here is a crop that positively thrives on cold weather! Garlic that has endured a cold winter seems to produce larger bulbs the following year. My favourite is the soft neck French variety ‘Germidour’. The flavour of this variety  is relatively mild and it can be eaten raw. Confusingly the soft neck types generally store the best.

Shallots are also hardy and can be planted now through until November. My variety of choice here is ‘Griselle’. It has a lovely spicy flavour and is ready to harvest next June. Both garlic and shallots can be overwintered in trays and planted out next Spring if you prefer. October is also fine for planting overwintered onion sets, if you didn’t get round to it last month.

None of these jobs are urgent. When the soil is too wet, it is far better to keep off it, as you will do more harm than good.

Periodically check your winter cabbages, sprouts and broccoli to ensure they are protected from pigeon attack. Covering the plants with netting rested on hoops will defeat these voracious birds.

Winter lettuce has enjoyed the rain but it is fair to say the slugs have too. Even so late in the season some slug and snail control or repellent may well be needed on wetter plots.

Still on the topic of salads, this month I’m going to sow some leaf salad ‘Winter mix’. This grows well in my unheated greenhouse for a bonus harvest of mid-winter fresh salad. It will grow in a cold-frame or even on the windowsill too.

Finally, early in the month, I’ll be sowing a batch of the round seeded pea ‘Douce Provence’. This will survive the winter outdoors in mild areas with some fleece protection during very cold conditions. Alternatively the seeds can be sown in seed trays or pots in an unheated greenhouse and planted outdoors next spring.

Autumn Bounty

Halloween is almost upon us and nothing beats your home-grown pumpkin for carving. The F1 variety ‘Becky’ lends itself really well and great fun can be had on a chilly autumn evening craving these into all manner of weird and wonderful shapes.

We are in the middle of the apple/pear harvesting season. The perception in my local area is that yields are down on the exceptional season last year. This is understandable. Even windfall apples can be used if they are eaten within a few days, rather than stored. Alternatively, a fruit press can be a boon at this time of year for making your own fruit juice. If you are feeling adventurous, you may even feel inclined to have a go at your own perry or cider!

If you have any summer onions still in the ground, do harvest them now as soon as possible. Before storing them overwinter, it is vital to dry them out properly first. I do this by putting them on slatted staging in a greenhouse. Alternatively, in dry weather they can be dried outside on a wire rack. Take off any diseased or damaged outer layers of skin.

All of the above just goes to show that there is still plenty to do, despite the darker evenings and decidedly chillier autumn temperatures.

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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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