October has been a busy – and very wet – month in the Kitchen Garden. With the days getting shorter and autumn making its appearance known, tidying has been at the top of the agenda this month, particularly the past week. As wonderful as it is, autumn always brings with it an onslaught of leaves. And although their orange and golden hues reflect beautifully throughout the gardens, if not dealt with they can cause a whole heap of issues.

Autumn leaves are however a fantastic natural soil conditioner. We’ve been adding our collection of fallen leaves into a wire bin and eventually (trust the process, it can take a while) we’ll be able to use the finished leafmould to fertilise the garden, vegetable beds and fruit bushes. If you don’t have a wire bin, you can use some strong black bags with a few drainage holes punched in the bottom or simply choose a secluded spot in the garden and pile your leaves there.

At the beginning of the month, when we had a break from raking the lawns and clearing the pathways, I made some time to sort through the seed tin. Several rainy days in a row put a stop to many of our initial plans, so I took the opportunity to tick off a task that I often find quite daunting – though once complete, feels oh so rewarding. It gives me a chance to take stock of everything we have and place orders if needed, check if seeds are still viable and then discard of any that have passed their expiration.

With the wet days continuing well into October, it also provided time to research brassica seeds that are resilient to club root. We had our suspicions, but it appears several of the veg beds have club root spores present in the ground. Spores can remain in the ground for up to 20 years, and though lime powder has been dug into the ground which will hopefully aid in helping, it could be around for a while.

Eventually the Kitchen Garden was graced with some much needed (and wanted) sunshine and we were able to sow two varieties of spinach (Early Prickly and Palco F1) in one of the metal raised beds. These have now been covered with cloches and will hopefully be ready to harvest in a few weeks. Spinach is one of my favourite veggies, so I’m excited to put this leafy green to use in the kitchen. Another of my favourite Kitchen Garden crops is the sweet potato. And judging by previous years, I knew ours would be ready to pick soon. We checked the soil carefully and to my delight, several chunky tubers appeared. These will now be left in a warm place to ensure their skins harden and cure before being stored in a paper sack in the larder and put to use in umpteen recipes.

Elsewhere, the runner bean climbers have been cleared and added to the compost bin, the apricot, nectarine and peach trees have been shrouded in their winter covers, the empty veg beds have been cleared and rotavated ready for next year’s crops and we’ve continued with weeding, deadheading and cutting back the messy flower borders.

We’ve also started some broad beans in deep modules and placed them in the greenhouse ready for an early crop in 2021. With the unseasonal warm weather we’ve been experiencing the past few days I have a feeling they could begin sprouting earlier than expected.  

Finally, something that has taken much of our time this past month is the Kitchen Garden planting plan for 2021. Yes, it’s that time again already. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be more excited to wave goodbye to 2020, and what better way to do that than planning for next year. The placements of certain veggies, fruits and salad are still being finalised so, unfortunately; we can’t reveal the plans just yet. However, they will appear on our blog soon so keep your eyes peeled.

Here are some of the jobs we’ve planned for November in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden:

  • Plant shallots and garlic

  • Apply grease to the fruit trees to prevent the female winter month laying her eggs

  • Split shrub crowns

  • Prune roses by a third

  • Prune black, red and white currants

  • Continuing to clear, clear and clear the leaves – as any gardener knows a rake becomes a staple tool throughout the autumn months

Stay safe and happy gardening!