October marks a big change in the allotment year, the fast growing frenzy of summer has gone and it’s more a tidying up and harvesting kind of month, but there’s still a bit of planting to do and seeds that can be sown.
I’ve got a list of things to do before the clocks go back on the 25th October when the days will be noticeably shorter.
I’ll be digging up the all the potatoes on my plot this month, in any case they’ll just deteriorate, but mainly it’s to stop the dreaded potato blight [Phytophthora infestans] lurking on the plot in potatoes that have been left in the ground.
The fungus also affects other members of the solinaceae family, like tomatoes, and having lost my tomatoes to this disease this year, I’m being extra careful to dig up all potatoes, even the tiny ones.
Prevention is one of the best weapons in the armoury of us organic growers.
Dig up beans and pea plants, the base of the plant and roots should be left to add nitrogen to the soil as they break down.
Cut winter squash and pumpkins and leave them in the sun so that the skin hardens for better storage, if there’s no sun around, somewhere cool and airy is almost as good.
Harvest summer vegetables like courgettes and beetroot before the first frost comes.
Parsnips can be left in the ground, they sweeten up after a couple of frosts and carrots can stay there too and be pulled up as needed. I’ve made a note to sow more carrots next year, I ran out weeks ago and although they’re cheap to buy I love the sweet taste of frexhly picked ones and the coloured ones for their novelty value.
Dump cleared plant growth on the compost bin, just make sure that it’s healthy and hasn’t had any disease. Large amounts of green, planty additions to the heap can be balanced with some form of cardboard or brown paper to stop it all getting too soggy.
The soil has worked hard and needs to be revived ready for a good harvest next year, plants grow more healthily in good soil making them more resistant to diseases. Add a thick layer of compost or spent mushroom compost, there’s no need to dig it in, it’ll eventually get mixed in by those hard working worms.
Autumn fruiting raspberries should keep coming untill the first frosts.
Rhubarb becomes dormant this month so it’s a good time to dig it up and divide it, you’ll need a lot of energy for this particular job.
Bare-root fruit bushes can be planted this month and next, it’s much cheaper to buy them like this rather than as potted plants and they’re easily bought online.
Preserve as much as you can
There are plenty of apples at my allotment, they’re not the tastiest of fruit, but perfect for freezing. I partially cook them and freeze in crumble sized batches, so they can be defrosted and tipped into a pie or crumble dish. They’re a good ingredient for chutney too and I’m also giving bags of them away.
There are a few things to grow:
- Plant garlic ready for next summer, it needs a good period of frost.
plant the cloves 5cm/2in deep so the tip is covered, 18cm/7in apart, 30cm/12in between rows.
- Sow broad beans for next spring, they’re worth growing because they’re easy and it’s almost impossible to buy them small and tender enough in the shops.
Aquadulce Claudia is a good variety, plant the seeds 5cm/2in in the ground, spaced 50cm/20in apart, 75cm/2ft 6in between rows.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson