October

Don’t think you can take a rest in October. It is a critical month for clearing up from this year’s cropping, planning ahead for next year’s growing season, and most importantly, beginning to get the soil ready for the spring.

Clearing up  Clearing debris and digging the ground will help to deter slugs and other ground borne pests. Keeping the ground clear of leaves gives them nowhere to hide and birds will eat the bugs and eggs that you bring to the surface.

Clear annual and perennial weeds from around fruit bushes and trees. Taking care not to damage roots.

Continue to add annual weed seedlings and old plant material to your compost heap as you clear away. Do not add material that may be diseased like brassica roots that might have clubroot and blighted potatoes and tomatoes. Take this, along with plants that have run to seed, to the tip or burn it.

Looking after your soil  As ground becomes vacant dig it over then decide whether to manure it or cover it  with cardboard or ground cover. (not with carpet please). This will protect it from the winter weather so that it’s ready for planting in February/March. There is no point in feeding plants if the nutrients just wash through the sandy soil, so adding manure now will improve the soil’s texture. This will greatly enhance the soil’s ability to hold moisture. Carrots and parsnips are long rooted vegetables and if they have to grow deeply to seek nutrients you will get longer vegetables, so do not manure your plot where they are going.

Bean trench  If you have not started your bean trench in September do it this month. You can fill it with organic material from your plot or kitchen waste during the winter. This will form a spongy reservoir that will hold water during dry months next summer.

Planting bare root bushes   Plant any bare root bushes or trees this month, thinking carefully about their location and prepare the planting holes by adding compost and bonemeal.

Dividing rhubarb  At the end of the month when the soil is less dry lift and divide rhubarb. Enrich soil with rich organic matter, replant the divisions with two or three buds, then insulate with leaf mould.

Sowing and planting  Sow broad beans, over-winter peas, early cauliflowers and carrots this month. They will start growing before it gets cold and begin growing again as soon as the weather warms up a bit producing a spring crop. However, chard and spinach like the cooler weather and planted now will germinate, and grow to give a winter crop.

Onions  Plant onion and shallot sets and garlic this month so that they establish some growth before it gets cold. Planted later they will rot rather than grow.

Strawberries  New strawberries or plants from your own runners need to be planted in a well prepared bed with plenty of hummus now.

Last potatoes  Lift potatoes this month before the ground becomes cold and wet. Make sure they are completely dry before storing in paper sacks.

Pumpkins  Leave pumpkins and squashes outside to cure in the last little bit of sun. They need to be dried indoors for a fortnight before storing.

Grease bands  Put greasebands on trunks of trees to stop insects such as the flightless female winter moths climbing up and laying eggs.