Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary October 2014
The clocks have gone back, the days are growing shorter and the big autumn tidy up is well under way. However the weather has been unseasonably mild which has meant some plants are still producing a crop at a time when they would normally have been consigned to the compost bin. We are still harvesting courgettes at the end of October in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden.
Despite the current mild weather, we gardeners know that the first frost is just around the corner and we are currently preparing for the cold, wet conditions to come. We have put PVC covers on some of our raised beds to provide protection from the worst of the weather for our overwintering crops such as spinach and chard. The insect mesh cover on our brassica cage is doing a good job of protecting our sprouts and broccoli from recent strong winds.
Our runner beans have been cleared away and our bean frame has been cleaned and dismantled for winter storage. Our outdoor tomato crops have also been cleared and the growhouses taken down. One of my favourite things about slot and lock frames and cages is the ability to take them apart and pack them away. Our storage space is very limited and we like to keep our garden tidy and uncluttered. I love garden equipment that can be packed away into a small space for the winter and easily assembled again next year.
The space created by the runner bean crop has been instantly filled by garlic and onions. Jo added lashings of homemade compost to the soil along with a scattering of poultry manure. The soil was then raked to a fine tilth before the garlic gloveswere planted just below the surface of the soil. The crop was covered with a layer of fleece until the cloves have rooted. This will prevent the birds from lifting the cloves out of the ground. The crop will be kept weed free and in February we will apply sulphate of potash in order to try and prevent rust from taking hold. Rust was a problem for us this year and we are keen to prevent this occurring again. Our onions had been growing in modules in the cold frame and these were planted out next to the garlic.
Whilst the weather is good, we have been taking the opportunity to check on the structures in the garden. Our low fence at the back of the garden was showing signs of wear so we have replaced it with a hazel hurdle fence which is far more pleasing to the eye. During this we discovered that the poles supporting the fence had rotted at the base. These have now been replaced and the fence is ready for whatever the winter throws at it.
Earlier in the year we decided to replace our strawberry plants following a disappointing harvest. Our existing plants are over 3 years old and strawberries really need renewing every three years to maintain a vigorous healthy crop. We have ordered some new varieties to try and have been preparing the raised bed in readiness for their arrival. Jo has added generous amounts of homemade compost to the bed and the plants will be given a dose of root boost when they are planted which will give them a good start. Strawberry mulch mats will then be added to each plant to protect the fruit from slug damage and excess moisture.
Once we had decided to replace our plants, Jo allowed the old plants to send out runners which have been growing into healthy young plants. This month these home grown runners have been transplanted into our strawberry tables to replace the old crop. The troughs have been refreshed with new compost and the plants were given root boost when they were planted. They have been labelled up and are looking good.
We have had some very wet days in Octobber and Jo used these as an excuse to head into the greenhouse. The remaining green tomatoes were harvested and the plants removed to the compost bin. The greenhouse heater has been put on a timer to come on at night if the temperatures fall dramatically to protect the remaining chillies, peppers and aubergines as well as our Christmas new potatoes. Tender herbs such as coriander have been potted up and brought into the greenhouse along with thyme and mint which have been brought inside to extend their season. The next job will be to clean the greenhouse down and put up the bubble wrap insulation.
It is difficult to talk of autumn in the kitchen garden without mentioning the dreaded leaves. The grounds surrounding the Kitchen Garden are a beautiul sight at this time of year as the foliage on the trees put on their autumn display. Unfortunately, when the wind is in the wrong direction, these end up llittering the ground in the Kitchen Garden and collecting them is not my favourite job! However a good rake and a set of grabbers to save my back and the offending leaves are soon consigned to the leaf composter. The resulting tidy garden always lifts my spirits.
Here are some of the jobs we've got planned for November in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden:
• Dig over bare soil and add compost or manure.
• Clear any leaves or debris from the ground.
• Begin cleaning pots and tools.
• Bubble wrap the greenhouse.
• Pick yellowing leaves from brussel sprouts.
• Harvest sweet potatoes once the foliage has turned yellow.
• Prune dead foliage from asparagus.
We're always here to offer advice and support. Go to the Ask the Expert section on the website and Email Horticultural Advisor Jo Blackwell with your Kitchen Garden queries or Pest Control expert Gavin Hatt and they'll do their best to help!
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Our 100-page Autumn catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas and products to solve the problems every gardener faces, plus plenty more seasonal ideas for harvesting, storage and preserving solutions.