Gardening Diary October Week One


You should now be completing the potato harvest and turning your attention to carrots and beetroot. Until now you should have been pulling both carrots and beetroot as required for use and not for storage, but the time has come for conserving your winter supplies. A few general rules apply to both crops.

Lift with a fork. They are likely to be firmly embedded in the soil, and if you attempt to pull them, especially carrots, there is every chance that the leaves will break off. Avoid any damage to the roots.

Twist off the leaves rather than cut them. This is most important with beetroot, which bleed if cut, but twisting is also the better method with carrots. Allow the crops to dry off on the soil if the weather is favourable; otherwise, move them into a shed. When dry, carefully rub off any soil adhering.

Store in layers in a box of sand, soil or peat, preferably in a shed. If they have to be stored outdoors, follow the same procedure for making a clamp as with potatoes, but make the heap conical. Remember to build individual clamps for beetroot and carrots. First cover the crop with straw and then cover that with a layer of soil, and make a drainage ditch around the clamp.

While most gardeners like to have at least a portion of their crop thus safely in store, it is possible to leave both carrots and beetroot in the ground where grown until the end of the year, or even longer in coastal and sheltered districts. However, it helps to cover them with straw in cold weather.

Of other root vegetables, any onions remaining in the ground ought now to be harvested, but swedes, parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes can safely be left in the ground until required for use. Many people think that the flavour of these root crops is improved by frost. Few gardeners take the trouble to store turnips; if you do, follow the instructions for carrots and beetroot. The quick-growing autumn turnips can be available straight from the garden until Christmas, and the variety Golden Ball can survive all but the hardest weather.

With the onset of colder weather, cloches should be placed over any salad crops still growing, except for those intended for spring use. Cloching also simplifies the cultivation of endive; when they are ready for blanching, all you have to do is to throw a sack or mat over the cloche. At this time of the year, blanching will probably take from two to three weeks.

It is not too late to sow winter lettuce, outdoors and unprotected, for harvesting next spring.

Throughout the summer I pick the freshest and youngest leaves from my nasturtium plants, grown primarily for ornament, and add them to salads. They have a hot, piquant taste and are rich in vitamin C. The flowers can also be eaten but the leaves have the better flavour. Now you can take a further crop from nasturtium plants—the seeds to be pickled and used as a substitute for capers. Use them before the plants are nipped by frost.

A root vegetable to which I have not yet referred, except in the calendar check-list, is Hamburg parsley. When well-grown, the root resembles that of a small parsnip, but it has a distinctive flavour. It is reasonably winter-hardy and may be left in the ground until required, and it is ready for use from now onwards.

Gardeners who grow pumpkins for the pleasure of producing giants often begin to wonder at this season how on earth to use them. They are, in fact, quite delicious. The Americans enjoy them as a dessert, in their traditional pumpkin pie, but other palates may prefer them in a savoury dish. Pumpkins have softer, yellower flesh than marrows and are excellent when cooked with mince, as in a shepherd’s pie. I once took a monster pumpkin to a harvest home supper, cut it into slices and sold these by auction for a charity. Bidding was brisk, and the supply of pumpkin inadequate to meet the demand. There is no reason why the seed should not be saved for next year.

When clearing away the debris of spent crops, such as beans, cucurbits and tomatoes, keep a watchful eye open for any traces of disease. If you find any, burn the vegetative matter rather than put it on the compost heap. In particular, never leave rotting tomatoes lying about on the surface of the soil, or you will be laying up trouble for next season. When gathering leaf beet, which should now be luxuriant, pull the leaves down and away from the base, like rhubarb. Do not cut them. A most attractive variety of seakale beet is Ruby Red, which has deep red stems and mid-ribs and blue-green leaves, and which makes a most imposing display at autumn flower shows and harvest festivals. If you failed to grow any this season, make a note of it for next year.


Another milestone in the fruit-gardening year is reached with the beginning of October. This month marks the end of the season’s fruit picking, and attention now turns to the autumn tasks.

The army of winter moths will soon be on the march, to climb up and attack your fruit trees. Grease banding, which should be completed by mid-October, prevents the wingless female winter moth from crawling up the tree trunks, and laying its eggs among the branches.

This operation consists of encircling each tree stem with a 10 cm (4”) wide band of an approved vegetable grease, which will trap the moths.

The last of the apples should be gathered by now, and the autumn-fruiting raspberries and strawberries will also be coming to an end, until the first frosts put a stop to them completely. Remember also to do a weekly check on all fruits in store and remove any which are rotting.

As blackberries and loganberries finish fruiting, look over the post and wire supports, and repair or renew them if necessary. Cut the old fruiting canes of loganberries to ground level. The oldest fruit rods of blackberries should be thinned out. The new growths of both fruits can be tied in. Be sure to leave a few more rods than will eventually be left after the spring pruning as insurance against severe frost damage.

One thought for the week to consider is the selection of strawberry varieties to provide a succession of fruit. Try, for example, Royal Sovereign; Cambridge Favourite; Tamella and Red Gauntlet. The first named is the earliest kind, progressing through to the latest variety Red Gauntlet (second crop or de-blossomed) all of which have performed well on a wide range of soils, sites and conditions.


The time has now come for transferring to the greenhouse all tender flowering plants which may be damaged by frost. Indeed, the greenhouse becomes a general haven of refuge from the winter. Make sure that it is in good order to receive your plants. Complete quickly any puttying, re-glazing or painting that is necessary, and clean the glass and remove any shading installed for the summer. Examine the staging frequently for pests; keep a special watch for earwigs and greenfly, which, if given the chance, will make themselves comfortable in the greenhouse for the winter and take their toll of your crops. The influx of plants and the chilly outside temperature will result in condensation on the glass, and damping off may become a problem. Wipe off condensation and pay attention to ventilation.

20. September 2013 by admin
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