Now October looms and whilst I love the autumn with its fruits and colours I do confess to becoming a little depressed by the nights closing in so fast and leaves disappearing from the trees. Gone are the sunny days with glasses of wine on the patio in the late sunshine. It will soon be dark by 5pm.Ugh! We have to make use of the day light as there is plenty to do outside but it is the month when relative calm can turn to tempest and temperatures can plummet without warning.
Tomatoes should have their final harvest if they are still in situ. The skins get tough and low light levels delay ripening. Bring the tomatoes in, ripen the big ones indoors and make chutney from the green ones. I don’t make chutney, I give all my green ones to Mrs Smith who rewards me with a jar of her most famous and the best I have ever tasted. So much of this advice depends on the weather. Bright sunny September days certainly helped to extend the season.
Cabbages and greens can now be attacked by pigeons looking for food and can be protected by fleece or netting. I suspect they will be less of a problem this year, the weather brought us a fine harvest, there is still dropped grain in unploughed fields.
Pumpkins and squashes should be harvested before a frost. If you intend to store them make sure the skins are firm and give them 10 days in a greenhouse or bright warm place to ‘cure’ before storing in a cold frost free shed.
Life would be so much easier if we knew what the winter was going to throw at us but that uncertainty is part of the joy of gardening. I often find that my greatest enemies are the wind and wet rather than the cold. So succulents that have been in pots on the patio are coming in to make sure they do not go soggy and begonias are being brought in to be dried. I don’t lift dahlias or cannas they can take pot luck on wet or cold, I have never been very successful at storing them and keeping them dry in a shed often because even if they are in a ‘dry’ shed there is a damp atmosphere.
Broad beans and indeed peas can be sown in the autumn. I don’t bother because the mice get mine, but if you put a cloche over the soil where you intend to plant them this will warm up the patch for them.
Runner beans may still be hanging forlornly on the plants. Obviously the big thick ones are stringy and inedible but the big beans inside are still edible and make a tasty addition to a stew. Compost the top growth of runner beans but leave the roots to be dug in later. The nodules on the roots are full of free nitrogen for your soil.
Herbaceous borders need to be cleaned up, except where you are saving havens for wild life and weeding still needs to be done. Any herbaceous plants that have become to big can be cut down and split. This makes free new plants and re- invigorates the plant that is left.
Make sure that nothing diseased is composted. That particularly refers to blighted tomato or potato plants. Equally if your compost doesn’t get hot enough you will just be making a good home for perennial weeds to fester and grow. Composting is a science and little bits of well chopped up wood together with green material, old bedding and grass clippings in layers will get a good heap going well. We add untreated cardboard and newspaper, although even with that these days you have to be careful. So many of the papers these days have some sort of plasticising in them and do not rot well.
Like so many I have a love hate relationship with birds in the garden. We have so many now that sing sweetly and adorn the walls and bird table but I had to resort to a fruit cage which will pay dividends over the winter as early buds forming now will be scavenged by birds and affect the spring and summer crops.
As many will know, we have retired from day to day garden retail to give ourselves more time to do some other things. We have to put more and more time and effort into the farm and also into the wood, or more correctly the plantation, which we hope to restore to its glory days when Mr Trist planted it. We also want to use the garden for more produce and to create a new garden here in the space which is currently taken up with retail plants.
In effect we are releasing ourselves from having to be here 6 days a week whilst continuing with supply of plants on request, garden consultancy and of course the floristry which I love. Not having to be on parade every day also means we can do all the things you retired folk do – you always seem so busy, and I would like some of that. More time for the floristry, piano, the garden, golf and painting, (only him, not me), farming, bell ringing, forestry and of course to write the book I have been promising myself for years. (I wonder!) A huge thank you to all my genuinely treasured customers, past, present and indeed, future.
Now get out there and start the autumn clear up.