Gardening Diary September Week 3
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
The September garden can be a cornucopia in its quantity and variety. In addition to the last pickings of beans (and perhaps) and the last , , squashes, pumpkins and tomatoes, as well as aubergines and capsicums under glass, early , , and even Brussels sprouts will be ripening. Nearly all the root vegetables will be available, as well as self-blanching celery, , salad , and even early . Brussels sprouts for harvesting in mid-September are something of a novelty, and most gardeners still concentrate on the later crops. However, a few pickings may be acceptable, and the rest of the sprouts will wait until needed. Start picking at the bottom of the stalk and work upwards. If mature more quickly than they are needed, protect the curd by breaking the mid-rib of one of the leaves and bending the leaf over the curd. It should then keep for a week or two without expanding too far.
As you clear crops, this is a good time to think about putting nutrients back into thein preparation for future crops. You want to build up the humus content of the soil; failure to do this will produce poor crops the following season. When the ground is cleared of all debris, spread a layer of well-rotted garden , farmyard manure or some other over the surface, and dig it in well. Do not apply fertilizers at this time, as they will probably be washed away by rain before they can do much good. Organic manures break down much more slowly and release nutrients into the soil gradually, much to the benefit of the next crop.
The lettuce variety which I try to sow this week, to give a good crop in late spring next year, is Valdor. It is one of the most reliable I know and can stand any ordinary winter outdoors without protection. Other varieties with which I have had good results from sowings now are Arctic King and Imperial Winter. These are all cabbage lettuce varieties. The cos varieties I usually grow are Winter Density (although this is intermediate between cabbage and cos), Lobjoit’s Green and Vaux’s Self-folding. All are for sowing outdoors. After a normal winter all will produce good lettuce in spring without any protection, although I generally put cloches over a selection of them in late winter or early spring, to get an early harvest. Lettuce sown now can be either transplanted later in the autumn or can be left in situ all the winter for transplanting in spring.
If you are thinking of a winter crop of lettuce in a heated greenhouse, use different varieties. Try Amanda, Miranda, Dandie or one of the Dutch varieties claimed to be resistant to downy mildew, which is sometimes a serious menace to winter lettuce under glass.
Continue sowingfor spring greens, or couch-grass control, as plots of ground are left vacant by other crops. Winter spinach may also be sown, for picking at intervals during late autumn and winter. Long-standing Prickly is the variety most widely used, but a new one, Sigmaleaf, is very resistant to bolting.
Corn salad which is useful as a winter salad, can be sown now and picked at intervals during the winter, especially if given a little protection by straw during severe weather.
Brassicas will now be making abundant growth, especially if they have not been checked by drought. This is the season of caterpillar trouble, especially on brassicas. As we are, in so many instances, near to the time of harvest, I do not spray but rely on hand-picking. Even so, green caterpillars sometimes tunnel into the hearts of cabbage and cauliflower, and it is as well to soak the vegetables thoroughly in salt water before cooking, to flush out any pests.
In spite of waging a continual battle againstwith the hoe, sprays and other weapons throughout the summer, there will probably be patches of the garden where have managed to establish themselves by now. Try this method of eradication. Cut all the foliage of the weeds and place in a layer on the surface of the soil. Cut any similar weeds you can get, on waste land or even in a neighbour’s garden, and add to the layer, until the soil is thoroughly covered. It should all be the same species of weed, for there seems to be something in the decaying vegetation that inhibits the growth of the roots beneath. No guarantee of success, but it does work sometimes and is worth trying.
IN THE FRUIT GARDEN
With the fruit-picking season now well advanced, and the bush fruits finished cropping for the season, there are a number of jobs to be attended to.
Harvest apples and pears, and put them into store as necessary. Always maintain a watchful eye on the ripening fruits. Picking of blackberries, loganberries and autumn-fruiting raspberries is in full swing, but take care to ensure that the fruit is dry when harvesting, as damp fruit quickly goes mouldy.
Blackcurrants can be pruned now, or during autumn and winter. There are some advantages to early pruning. Blackcurrants, unlike red currants and gooseberries, fruit on the young branches, and the removal of old fruiting shoots enables this season’s growth to ripen before winter. It also ensures the early removal of any diseased or pest-infested material, such as leaf spot disease or big bud. After pruning, the leaves and stems should be raked up and burned.
Nuts, including hazel, cobnuts and filberts, should be gathered as soon as they are sufficiently ripe with the husks turning brown; squirrels, birds and mice are very partial to these delicacies and may beat you to them. The nuts, which should be sound and whole, are then best spread out to dry before storing for use through the winter.
Blackberry and loganberry tips which were pegged down earlier should be watered if necessary; See if more fine soil around the new roots is required. Those well rooted may be severed and moved to their permanent positions.
IN THE GREENHOUSE
Few amateur gardeners reserve their greenhouses solely for vegetable and fruit crops. In autumn, winter and early spring the house has to be shared with flowers and pot plants, which are now being moved into position. But whatever use you make of it, the chief problem during the coming months will be maintaining an adequate temperature. The usual minimum target temperature for a cool house is 7°C (45°F) in winter, for a warm house 16°C (60°F). Glass is preferable to plastic for the fabric of the greenhouse, but an inner layer of transparent polythene may now be tacked into position. This produces, in effect, the advantages of double-glazing and can raise the temperature by about 4°°C (10°F). But once the polythene has been inserted, pay special attention to temperature on warm, sunny days. It can rise too high, so ventilate thoroughly.