Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary September 2015

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 25th September 2015

September has seen Autumn sneak slowly in to Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden. The days have still been warm and sunny, but the nights have turned cold and the effects are being shown all around the garden. Leaves are beginning to change colour and it won't be long before the Great British Rake Off begins!

green peppersEarlier on in the month, when the cold nights began to appear, we turned on the heater in the greenhouse. Our tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines are currently bearing lots of ripening fruits and a cold night could set them back and jeopardise the harvest. Our heater is on a thermostat which we have set at 18 degrees and this will keep our crops comfortable for the remainder of the growing season.   We’ve also removed the old capillary matting from the staging and reduced our watering to every few days. Our greenhouse crops will not appreciate sitting in cold wet conditions at this stage in the year.

Outside, we have dusted down the cloches and brought them out to protect vulnerable crops. They have been put over our autumn carrots to keep them warm and keep the worst of the rain off them. We have also placed a cloche over one of our yellow courgette plants. We have had a really good harvest of courgettes this year, starting some plants off early in a covered raised bed, and growing others out in the main beds. They are still cropping, but the yellow courgettes are starting to rot on the plants. Hopefully a cloche will help to extend the season even longer.

Throughout the month, we have been religiously keeping the garden clear of fallen leaves and debris from plants. Rhubarb, blueberries and brassicas are but a few of the plants beginning to deposit dead leaves onto the ground. Left there, they will provide a cosy overwintering habitat for unwelcome pests and diseases. We collect them daily and dispose of them into the compost bin. This helps the garden to keep looking good too.

As the big autumn harvest continues, we have dug our storage bags and apple racks out of the shed, ready to house the rewards bramleyof our labour. Our cooking apples aren’t quite ready for harvesting yet, but we have already been indulging in our dessert apples. These probably wont last long enough for storing before we have eaten them all, but our bramleys will need a home once they have been picked. Once harvested, they will sit happily in the cool of the shed to be used as and when we want them.

A couple of weeks ago, Jo cut back the haulms on our maincrop potatoes to the ground. Following this we left the tubers in the ground for ten days before digging them up. This time in the ground toughens their skins so that they will store better. Digging up the autumn potatoes is one of my favourite Kitchen Garden jobs. I love spending a beautiful sunny day revealing the crop that has been growing away unseen for the whole season. It is always a heart in the mouth moment when the first tubers appear, but once again our favourite varieties have served us well. The potatoes were left to dry out in the sunshine before being bagged up and placed in the larder ready for use. It is immensely satisfying to end up with a bag full of lovely potatoes and a neatly dug and raked patch of ground.

From one of my favourite jobs to one of my least enjoyable, earlier this month I tackled the pruning of our tayberry bush. Our tayberry has produced a really good crop of fruits this year, but was badly in need of attention. It is a strong grower and needs taming to keep it in check. This is a job that needs a really good pair of gloves, as tayberry plants can bite! They have very sharp prickles that can hurt, so it’s a good idea to be protected.  Tayberries need to have the old stems that bore this year’s fruit pruned back to the ground. The new growth was then tied into the supports as these will carry next’s crop. We finished the job by giving them a good feed of poultry manure and a thick mulch of home made compost. We also gave our summer fruiting raspberry plants the same treatment.

In the greenhouse this month, we got the propagator out ready for our autumn broad bean sowing. We have a greedy mouse population in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden, so our beans are grown in rootrainers, rather than in the ground. Once sown, these were then put into the propagator with the lid on to prevent any opportunistic mice digging them up and stealing them before they have a chance to grow. As we had space available in the propagator, we made the most of it by filling it with cuttings taken from the surrounding grounds. We have lavender and catmint cuttings in there at present which will hopefully be ready to plant out around the kitchen garden next year to help keep pests away from our crops.

With the winter months in mind, we have moved one of our pot grown mint plants into the greenhouse to be overwintered and to help extend the growing season. This has been given a good pruning to encourage new fresh growth well into late autumn and early winter.

In our salad mangers, we have planted out some spinach and winter salad leaves to keep the supply of salads coming as long as possible. The hoops and covers have been put over the mangers to keep them protected from the cold and wet. As with all our beds, they have been regularly treated with nemaslug to make sure none of our slimy friends takes a liking to the conditions as well. We will probably apply another nemaslug in October before the weather becomes too cold for it to be effective. It has certainly been very successful in keeping the slugs away this year, as not one has appeared on any of our salad crops.  

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

  • Apply nemslug to all beds.
  • Harvest apples and store for the winter.
  • Harvest squashes and pumpkins.
  • Rake fallen leaves and put into leaf cage.
  • Maintain tidiness in the garden by clearing plant debris.
  • Apply glue bands to fruit trees.
  • Put bubble wrap insulation up in the greenhouse.

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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Happy gardening!