Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary October 2015

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 29th October 2015

The harvest is in and our larder is now well stocked with squashes, potatoes and sweet potatoes. The freezer is full of French beans, runner beans, raspberries and blackberries. They should keep us going through the long winter ahead, along with the sprouts, leeks, celeriac, parsnips and broccoli still to be harvested.

October is the time for the big clear up in the kitchen garden and it is a job I really enjoy. I love clearing away the old crops and revealing the bare soil ready to be dug and enriched over the winter months. Our compost bins are bursting with spent crops ready to rot down and provide us with free compost next year. What I don’t enjoy is the leaf fall and the mess the fallen leaves make of a newly tidy garden. We are out with our rakes on a daily basis at this time of year to collect the fallen leaves ready to compost them into gorgeous crumbly leaf mould – a worthwhile reward for all our hard work.  

We’ve also been cleaning the greenhouse.  I wanted to start this job earlier, however our tomato plants decided to begin fruiting leaf fallagain in earnest, following a disappointing season. They are finally finished now and have been removed to allow us the room to work. Our remaining plants are moved around as we work. We have been cleaning the inside and outside of the greenhouse windows thoroughly to let in more valuable light. The capillary matting has been removed from the staging, which has been scrubbed clean. The floor and brickwork have had a thorough clean too. Early in November we will add a layer of bubble wrap insulation to provide protection for the plants we are overwintering.   Cleaning the greenhouse is a deeply satisfying job and one which I really enjoy. Over the winter we will also clean all of our pots and trays to ensure they are disease and pest free for new crops.

This month we have been sowing Mizuna, Mustard Greens, winter salads and spinach in the greenhouse. We already have these growing in our mangers and raised beds, however we want to make the most of our heater and grow some in the greenhouse border where the tomato plants grew. The seeds were sown into trays and are currently in our propagator where they are making good progress.

Outside in the Kitchen Garden, we have been pruning our soft fruit. Our blackcurrant bushes have shed their leaves and have begun dormancy so it is an ideal time to give them their annual haircut. The new growth from this year will bear next year’s fruit so we left the new stems and removed some of the older stems. The rule of thumb is to cut out a third of the old wood down to the ground and remove any weak stems, crossing branches and branches growing along the ground. The plants were then given a good mulch of compost to see them through the winter.

Our blackberry bushes have given us a really good crop this year, finally finishing in mid October. We have pruned out the stems that flowered this year and tied in the new stems to the support ready to supply us with fruit next year.

This month we planted out our broad bean plants. They are now a really good size and have been hardening off in the cold frame for the past couple of weeks. The soil, where our potatoes grew this year, has been dug over and had lashings of lovely homemade compost added.   The bean plants have been given supports and covered in a framework of fleece to protect them through the winter. Hopefully they will provide us with an early crop next year.   At a time of year when most of the garden is changing to brown soil, it is so refreshing to be planting out green shoots.

carolina rubyOther jobs we have completed this month included applying grease to our fruit trees. This will help to prevent any pests making their way up into the tree over the winter ready to strike next year. We’ve also been very vigilant with clearing up leaves under the fruit trees. Left in situ, they will provide pests and diseases with an ideal hibernation spot under the trees – ready to emerge in the spring and attack our crop.

Our annual sweet potato harvest was the highlight of the month for me. This is one of my favourite crops as it always looks so good. We grow them in a raised bed and train them up an obelisk to provide a real focal point. However it is always nervous moment when we come to dig up the tubers and see the fruits of our labour. We weren’t disappointed. The result of this year’s growth was a lovely harvest of fat red tubers, which have been laid out in a warm, dry space for their skins to cure before being stored away in a bag in the larder. This year we tried two varieties – ‘Carolina Ruby’ and ‘Beauregard Improved’. ‘Carolina Ruby’were far and away the best tubers. It will be interesting to see how they compare for taste. They look so amazing, I don’t think they will last us long

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

  • Plant out onions
  • Bubble wrap the greenhouse.

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