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Top October Allotment Tips

There is a tingle of sadness that we are losing those long days and warm temperatures of summer. However, I really enjoy this time of year. Autumn can be such a special time and is not a bad replacement!

The early morning air already smells a little different as a dankness creeps in. The grass is damp every morning too. A few trees are also beginning to shed their leaves. I’m looking forward to enjoying those wonderful fiery autumn colours. Not to be outdone, near ground level is the humble blueberry. Not only does this plant produce tasty, nutritious fruit but it can give a spectacular autumn show of red foliage as a final hurrah.

Our allotments are now in transitional mode, heading unstoppably towards winter and a chance to press the reset button. There is just enough early evening light to make a quick visit to the plot after work until the clocks go back on Halloween.

There are wild mushrooms on my manure heap which has quite a lot of straw in it. If you fancy growing mushrooms at home there is an easy way to do it by using a mushroom kit. Alternatively spawn plugs are ideal. The spawn simply needs to be added to a pre-drilled freshly cut log on your plot. Mushrooms are very much in season in late summer and early autumn.

Autumn Bounty

There is still much to harvest and enjoy on our hardworking plots.

I’ve been having great fun with the kids harvesting giant pumpkins, just one on each visit as they are so heavy to carry on the walk home. We will be carving out some weird and wonderful lanterns before Halloween. I’m sure some of the smaller ones will end up as soup or in a pie or even roasted! The seeds are delicious roasted as a very healthy snack.

I’m still in the middle of harvesting sweet corn which has done remarkably well. Courgettes are still going strong too. They will carry on until the first frost or severe mildew strikes.

Beetroot are doing well and we’ve been able to pickle enough for six jars, for winter use. Beetroot will cope with light frosts and can stay in the ground until early winter unless slugs are a problem or your plot is very wet.

I’ve harvested the first apples of autumn too. It is a good idea to grade them (like with potatoes) so that you only store unblemished specimens. Early varieties such as ever dependable, super tasty ‘Worcester Pearmain’ that I grow, don’t store as well as later varieties that are harvested in late October.

October Seed Sowing

Cabbage ‘F1 can be sown this month in a cold greenhouse and overwintered. It should be ready to harvest next July. The reliable Spring Onion ‘White Lisbon’ (winter hardy) and kept in a cold greenhouse or cold frame over winter. Cauliflower ‘F1 Seoul’ can also be sown now for planting out next spring. This variety copes well with less than perfect conditions.

Early Autumn Tasks

Early autumn is the ideal time to plant overwintering onions, garlic and shallots. Before they can be planted soil preparation is key, and as land has become available I’ve made a start on that. Garlic can be planted in spring but I much prefer autumn. The cold weather is no problem as long as the soil is well-drained.

Keep an eye on the netting that is covering your brassicas. This will help protect your crops from attacks from pigeons.

Something to Croak about

In my greenhouse, I discovered that I have a resident young frog that has moved in! This could be a boon for organic pest control. There are doubtless plenty of slugs and snails to feast on. This may be a clever frog as there is less chance of predation from hedgehogs and birds of prey.

We hope you have enjoyed our Top October Allotment Tips and stay tuned for more in November.

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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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