Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - October 2011

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st October 2011

After a hectic summer in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden, the autumn season is truly upon us now.  The rich colours of the autumn leaves look lovely against the blue skies and although raking up the falling leaves will keep us busy for weeks to come it is a beautiful sight on a sunny autumn day.  In this woodland setting there are copious amounts of leaves to rake up – all heading for the leaf composter eventually rotting down to provide an invaluable mulch – giving us recycling brownie points too!

There has been lots of photography going on in the garden for the spring catalogue, this has now finished much to Lynn’s delight (our Horticulturist & Kitchen Gardener).  Martin (our Photographer, Horticulturist, Tweeter & Master Composter) has got a habit of disrupting things on his photography visits to the kitchen garden as well as demanding tea!

The last of the courgettes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and squashes have been picked and packed off to the kitchen.  Lynn tried her hand at making Ratatouille, a delicious way to use up the autumnal glut of produce.  We may try Aubergine parmigiana or Moussaka – what culinary decisions!

Even though it’s effectively the end of the growing season, it doesn’t really wind down here in the garden there are still lots of jobs to be getting on with as well as well as tidying, cleaning and sowing seeds for next year’s season – so you could say we are winding it up for next season, it will be here before we know it! 
It has been a great year for pears – ‘Conference’ takes some beating.  We’ve harvested and stored them along with the apples in Stackable Apple Racks so hopefully we will have apples and pears for a good few months to come.

Our apple and pear trees have been greased, this year we have used the Fruit Tree Grease, Lynn enjoyed getting the paint brush out and getting stuck in, we have used the Tree Glue Bands before but both will do the job of preventing those winter moth females climbing up the trees.

The blackcurrants have been shaped and pruned ready for next year’s growth spurt.  I keep forgetting how much the woody stems smell of blackcurrants – yummy! Reminds me of the Blackcurrant Cassis we made in the summer.

Our carrots have been dug up and stored for the winter. We decided to make an Earth Clamp this year. For those of you who haven’t tried it, we dug a shallow hole and added a thick layer of sharp sand, and laid our carrots (necks facing out) in a circle building them up into a mound.  The carrots were covered with a thick layer of straw, I used a thin sheet of polystyrene, plastic sheet and then a cloche but the straw and plastic sheet should do the trick, although you can cover with a layer of soil for extra frost protection.  Don’t think the frost will get to the carrots in there!

The first of the parsnips have been dug up this week (well we did have a mild frost last week didn’t we?) we couldn’t wait any longer to see how big they were and big they were too!! We have produced some monster 2011 parsnips – we did sow them in sand but we are just wondering if there was some manure left in the soil from last year to give them this massive boost – the extra tall foliage took a resemblance to ‘day of the triffids’ too – must have had some extra terrestrial involvement with the parsnips this year.

The Blackberries have been pruned this month and new canes tied in.  The blackberries have outgrown their supports and unfortunately the posts weren’t up to much so new posts, Gripple Wire & Clips need to be fitted. Will these maintenance jobs ever end?

The Sweetcorn has been cut down and is on it’s way to the compost heap -  very disappointing harvest this year, our plants were tall and healthy, pollinated well but the corns needed another few weeks of sunshine which unfortunately we didn’t have.  Oh well, we will try again next year and keep our fingers crossed for a Mediterranean summer.

Our Runner bean and French bean plants have now been cut down to ground level after a successful crop this year.  Remember to leave the roots in the soil to be dug over later, they break down and return vital nitrogen to the soil.  Our Brassicas are going in this bed next year so all important to feed the grrrreedy cabbages.  Talking of Brassica’s our sprouts are looking a bit small, so they have had a sprinkle of Organic Fish Blood & Bone and a liquid feed of Maxicrop growth stimulant – if this doesn’t work we may have to nip out the growing tip – we just have to have sprouts for Christmas Lunch.

The strawberry plants are all set up for next year, the dead foliage has been cut off leaving as much foliage as possible to protect the plant over winter and the straw removed.  Covered with fleece they are all ready for the winter ahead.  We have enough strawberry runners to start a strawberry farm, but it is time to change out some of our 3 year old plants.  Some will go into large terracotta pots and moved into the fruit cage away from the birds and the rest will go into planters on the strawberry tables.

Our garlic bulbs arrived this week direct from the Garlic Farm and they have already been planted under Fleece Tunnels  to stop the birds devouring them.  We wanted to get the cloves in before the weather turned cold to give them a good start.  We had a good harvest this year and have picked our favourites to grow again – Albigensian, Avignon, Early Purple Wight, Picardy, Solent and not forgetting the giant Elephant Garlic – lovely for roasting and dipping in crusty bread.

Now that the clocks have gone back an hour and the daylight hours are dwindling,  it’s time to turn the radio on and get in the greenhouse or potting shed and start your winter seed sowing – we have sown Winter Lettuce (‘Valdor’) under Square Cloches but Mini Greenhouse Cloche Tunnels are good too depending on the space available.  Organic Sweet Pea (‘Spencer‘) and Organic Broad Beans Super Aquadulce have been sown in Rootrainers – excellent for encouraging deep roots to develop for an early crop of Broad Beans hopefully March/April next year.

Lynn surprised us all by clearing up the potting shed this week – a good job for a miserable rainy day and Adie the Gardener took advantage of the inclement weather and did an excellent job of clearing out the storage/product shed, just the greenhouse to be pressure washed and our housekeeping is up to date – Kim & Aggie would be impressed with our Eco-Greenhouse cleaner!

Well it’s time for a cuppa and back to the Kitchen Garden plan for 2012 – we have a 1/3rd of an acre here and I’m scratching my head deciding where to grow more and more varieties of our favourite vegetables – the problem is where to fit it in and practice good crop rotation at the same time.  At this rate I will still be sitting here next month!

And on the subject of sitting down, you can also pick up loads of handy tips by  We're always here to offer advice and support too - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!  

With winter just around the corner and daylight/gardening hours slowly decreasing, why not take the opportunity to fire up the PC/laptop and join the social media revolution! Sounds complicated? Well, it's not as all you need to do is click on either the Twitter or Facebook icons above to visit our bustling Twitter feed and Facebook pages. We're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use Twitter or face book to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!