October often has a mix of autumn showers with lovely days of sunshine and blue sky. Take advantage of the warmest days, start looking after your soil and get it in good shape before winter comes.
Use this time to let seed pods dry, collect them as soon as you can and store them ready for sowing next year.
Sow, plant, propagate
- Early October is the best time for planting garlic and Japanese onion sets, after you’ve cleared summer veg such as courgettes or beans. Spread well rotted manure on the bed and you’ll be rewarded with huge bulbs.
- You can also sow broad beans now but protect them from cold weather and bird damage with fleece.
- Make a sowing of rounded peas for an extra-early crop in the spring – this way your pea plants will be strong and better able to cope with slugs and snails, normally active and hungry by that time.
- There is still time to sow your stir fry and salad leaves in a greenhouse.
- If you haven’t already done do, you’re still on time to plant strawberries – as a general rule, yields are reduced after 3 years and you’ll need to regenerate your plant stock.
- Fruit trees and soft fruit can also be planted now. Make sure you give them a good start and prepare your soil carefully with lots of organic matter.
This is a very busy month, particularly harvesting and storing. Although most heat-loving veg are mostly over, the last bits of harvest are still a great joy. Pick and enjoy:
- Pumpkins and squashes
- Cucumbers – finally at the end of their season they have made a lot of us proud this year!
- Root crops such as carrots, beet, turnips, khol rabi and celeriac should be lifted and stored
- Sweet corn
- Beans – French and runner
- Salad and oriental leaves
- Potatoes (make sure you harvest these if you haven’t already done so, as an early frost will destroy the flavour and they will get slug damage if left in the ground)
- Apples: harvest and store them in a cool dry place and you’ll be able to enjoy them for a few months to come
- Soft fruit, particularly your autumn fruiting raspberries, which this year are doing particularly well
- Prune blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries and take the opportunity to use the pruned material as hardwood cuttings. Plant straight into the ground and increase your stock for next year.
- Summer fruiting raspberries and hybrid-berries: unlike autumn fruiting raspberries, summer fruiting varieties produce fruit on one-year-old canes. After harvesting, cut back all canes which have produced fruit to ground level. Select 6-8 of the strongest young canes which haven’t fruited this year and tie in. Cut back the rest of the young canes to ground level.
- Make a fruit plan – if you’re planning fruit trees for the first time make a plan as you’d do for your vegetables and make sure you choose varieties that will cross fertilize.
- Begin pruning fruit trees as soon as all leaves have fallen.
Jobs to do
- Earth up winter green and leeks and feed your broccoli with manure from now on until Christmas.
- Clear your beds of summer plants that have come to an end and start looking after your soil.
- Start weeding so that your soil is nice and clean before winter comes. You can then add well rotted compost or manure, which will keep the soil warm and feed hungry worms and other micro-organisms. Alternatively sow green manures if you haven’t done it already – you’re still on time for grazing rye or winter field beans, the latter particularly effective if you have a heavy soil.
- Make leafmould – not sure what to do with fallen leaves? Collect them, place in a container or a bag and forget about them for at least one year – an undisturbed corner is ideal. Leafmould has virtually no nutritional value but is a great soil conditioner and has an excellent structure, holding moisture but allowing good drainage. Use anywhere, but particularly before root crops.
- Give your greenhouse and tool shed a good scrub before it gets too cold.