Gardening Diary October Week Three


It has been previously suggested that the rough-digging of garden plots left vacant by summer crops offered a suitable opportunity for treating the soil with lime. I have also warned that no manure should be applied for at least a month after liming. If you did not lime then, an alternative programme is to supply manure now and lime later. The interval between the two operations needs to be longer than if the lime is applied first—at least six weeks if bulky organic manure is used, although only just over a month if you are using chemical fertilizers.

If the ground is weedy or if you have sown a catch crop of mustard, turnips or something similar, tackling the manuring first will probably be the better procedure. The plant growth may be dense enough to need cutting off with a grass or bill hook or shears before digging, in which case the green matter should be laid along the bottom of each trench. Add the farmyard or other organic manure to this and bury it.

Ideally, farmyard manure should be well-rotted before being applied to the soil. It should be uniform, dark brown humus, with the straw content completely disintegrated and the rank scent of fresh manure entirely dispersed. In practice, you may have to make do with what you can get. The fresher and more strawy the manure, the longer it needs to break down and become useful humus, but if you dig in such manure now it has the whole winter in which to decay, and that should be enough time.

A frequently recommended method of mixing bulky manure into the soil is half-trenching. First dig a trench one spit deep, removing the soil to the far end of the plot. Then fork over the soil in the bottom of the trench, to a further depth of the spade blade. Fork in the manure and mix with the loose soil, finally covering it with the next spit. There are limitations to this method, but it is most useful in old gardens with deep soil. Do not try it where there is only a thin layer of soil above a sterile subsoil for on no account should this subsoil be brought to the surface. Particularly in chalky and stony soils digging should be kept shallow.

This is a good time to take stock of your garden soil and decide what is necessary to improve it.

The soil types which benefit most from applications of bulky manures are the chalky, sandy and stony ones. All of these are free-draining and so lose their plant nutrients quickly. Anything you can do to help them to retain their fertility is worthwhile. The heavier farmyard manure rather than the loose, strawy type is best.

The problems of clay soil tend to be the exact opposite. Clay soil is inclined to retain moisture and hence to become waterlogged, and may require draining. When applying farmyard manure, use the strawy stable type rather than the more solid sticky stuff from cow-byres and pigsties. Dig thoroughly, leave rough and at some time in the autumn or winter give a dressing of lime in some form, e.g. chalk, ground limestone or gypsum.

Much the same applies to peat soils, except that they are lighter and easier to dig. They also benefit from liberal dressings of lime and may need draining.

When digging garden soil in autumn, use compost as you would farmyard manure. But be careful about applying inorganic fertilizers at this season. Most of them, such as superphosphate, sulphate of ammonia, dried blood, sulphate of potash and compound fertilizers formulated for specific crops, are quick-acting. They make plant foods readily available to growing plants, but if you apply them now the nutrients will probably have disappeared by spring, and it will not be until then that plants will start to grow again. There are, however, some general compound fertilizers, low in nitrogen content, which can be used now. Packages of compound fertilizers usually give the formula of the nutrient contents in figures—three figures, separated by colons and always in the same order. The first figure refers to nitrogen, the second to the phosphorus content and the third to potassium. A formula of 5:7:7 means that the fertilizer contains 5 units of nitrogen, 7 of phosphates and 7 of potash; and a formula similar to that is what to look for if application is required at this time of year.

Continue harvesting the last of the summer crops if these have not already been blasted by frost and gales. Lift any potatoes remaining in the ground, also carrots, beetroot and, if you choose, turnips for storing. There should be an abundance of brassicas, both those now cropping and those making vigorous growth for a later harvest. Broccoli, sprouting broccoli, winter cabbage, Savoy, Brussels sprouts and kale are very hardy and are not discouraged by the moderate frosts of autumn, but red cabbage is generally best harvested at this time of the year and over the next few weeks. A few frosts will probably have improved the flavour of swedes and parsnips by this time, so both will be available for use as required, although the later crops of swedes will still be growing strongly. Celery also will be tastier after cold weather, and can be lifted now.


If you have not already done so, place your order for tree and soft fruit without delay. Timely attention to a few details can save irritation and frustration later. For example, ordering plants early and naming alternative varieties is helpful to the supplier. Before, rather than after, ordering trees and bushes, make sure there is enough room for all you plan to grow.

When buying fruit trees such as apples which have been budded or grafted it is not enough to have healthy trees of the right fruiting variety. You must also have the correct rootstocks for your soil and garden. The most suitable root-stocks for apple trees to grow as cordons or in small gardens are MIX or M26. However, on poor soils MM 106 may be better. Over-vigorous trees soon outgrow their allotted space and can take longer to come into bearing. Remember also that cooking apples tend to make larger trees than dessert varieties, so allow for sufficient space.

With pear trees, Quince C is moderately dwarfing, but Quince A is of semi-vigorous habit and, hence, is better on poor soils. Seedling rootstocks of any kind tend to be variable and unpredictable in habit and fruitfulness.

Cherry trees budded onto F12/1 rootstock are less likely to be affected by canker disease than those on seedling rootstocks.

Remember that pollination is an important factor with some fruit crops; cherries are particularly tricky and you should consult the nursery catalogue carefully. Many varieties of apples, pears and plums also need to be planted with a suitable pollinator.

Blueberries, or bilberries, can be layered now. The stems can be pegged into sandy soil, after kinking or bending, at the point they are pinned into the ground.


For growing lettuce under glass in autumn and winter, be sure to choose the right varieties. Those recommended by the seed merchants for outdoor crops in spring and summer are not suitable, nor are the hardy winter varieties sown outdoors in autumn for use in mid-spring. Among the varieties designed for use in cold frames or slightly heated greenhouses, are Kloek, Miranda, Amanda and Noran, all of which may be sown now, to produce crops from February onwards. Kordaat and Mistra are good varieties for a heated greenhouse. Glasshouse lettuces sown last month will now be ready for transplanting, usually in soil vacated by tomatoes. For nearly all lettuce varieties regard 55°F (12°C) as about the minimum night temperature. Radishes may also be sown now, in vacant plots under staging.

10. October 2013 by admin
Categories: Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Gardening Diary October Week Three


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