DIG IT

with Fulke Andel

DIG IT

Gardening Advice for the NEW (and not so new) Gardener

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Well, the final throes of summer didn’t amount to much. The rain gave my arch enemies the conditions they needed to chomp their way through whatever bedding plants had survived the squally weather conditions of July and August. One morning, I picked up over 30 slugs from my flower borders, depositing them lovingly in the field behind my garden. (Well if you’ll believe that…..!) Anyway, the autumn is now definitely here for real and it feels a lot colder. It has to be said though, that this is a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour and the early morning mists swirling around. It’s also time to start preparing for early frosts, by moving vulnerable plants into frost free environments. 

It’s fantastic to have some fresh herbs at hand in the kitchen during the winter, to liven up an omelette or add colour to a stew. So try this ………. pot up mint, parsley and chives for the winter. Lift a clump, remove any yellow leaves, divide and plant into smallish pots using multi-purpose compost. Stand on a sunny windowsill, water well and wait for your winter crop to flourish.
 

Once your vegetable garden is clear, dig it over and incorporate compost. Start this as soon as possible so

the soil can be broken down by the winter elements.

This is especially important on heavy clay soils; it also makes life so much easier in the spring, with the frost having done all the hard work for you! If you are short of compost, it is better to treat a small area properly than spread it too thinly over a larger area. I’m fortunate in that I have 4 big composting pens. Each is capable of holding all the garden and kitchen waste generated during the year. It’s a lazy way of making compost but it works! Once I’ve cleared everything from the vegetable garden and the borders and this has gone into the compost pen, along with the grass clippings from the final cut of the year, I top the pen with the black sacks full of leaves that I’ve swept up from our Virginia Creeper. Just tie the bags loosely when full making sure the leaves are moist, spike the bags with a garden fork – job done.  No need to do anything, just wait for 3 years for the compost (the leaf mould will be ready in 2). Next year, I’ll be breaking into the compost pen for 2013. Looking forward to it already, I’m sure it will prove to be a fine vintage!

October is the time to start planning your vegetable garden for next year, remember the need to rotate your crops. If you’re going to sow garlic or broad beans now, you need to make sure you sow them in the right section of the vegetable garden! Below is a conventional crop rotation plan.

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Plot 1

Legumes

Brassicas

Roots and Onions

Potatoes

Plot 2

Brassicas

Roots and Onions

Potatoes

Legumes

Plot 3

Roots and Onions

Potatoes

Legumes

Brassicas

Plot 4

Potatoes

Legumes

Brassicas

Roots and Onions

If the spring of 2016 is going to be your first attempt at growing vegetables and you don’t fancy tackling the digging this month, cover your plot now with a thick plastic sheet or tarpaulin. When you come to make a start in the spring, you’ll find that the bulk of the grass and weeds have died back, making your first dig-over that much easier to do.

Our feathered friends will be starting to build up their reserves for winter, so do please put out food and fresh water for them. Wildlife experts recommend that we feed the birds all year round, as they soon become reliant on the food we provide. However, their greatest time of need is during winter and spring, when their natural food sources are greatly depleted. Putting out food helps them survive the chilly winter months and ensures they are in good condition for the breeding season. Choose good quality wild bird seed, bird peanuts (remember to take them out of nylon mesh bags which can trap beaks and legs), suet and fat balls (these are great high energy foods and ideal during cold weather) as well as kitchen scraps such as crushed breakfast cereals, pinhead oatmeal, uncooked porridge oats, hard fats such as mild cheese, fresh and dried fruit.  Also do make sure your ‘feeding station’ has good, all round visibility and is well out of range of the scourge of domestic gardens – the cat!

Jobs to do in your garden for the month of October

Sow / Plant

Broad beans

Spinach beet

Plant out

Garlic

Autumn onion sets

Harvest

The bulk of your crops should have been harvested by now. Lift root crops (with the exception of parsnips- they taste better after frost) and store

Harvest apples, pears and grapes

Fruit

Plant fruit trees and new strawberries; clear out old strawberry plants and weeds, position the newcomers a foot apart in rows wide enough apart to walk between, make sure the crowns just show above the soil, firm them in well and water regularly if dry.

Dig up and split old rhubarb crowns, replanting with a good dollop of manure under each plant.

Cut out the canes of blackberries, loganberries and tayberries which have fruited this year and tie in the new canes.

General

Clear up fallen autumn leaves regularly

Cut back perennials that have died down

Divide herbaceous perennials and rhubarb crowns

Move tender plants, including aquatic ones, into the greenhouse

Prune climbing roses

Order seeds for next year

This may be your last chance to mow lawns and trim hedges in mild areas

Renovate old lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf

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Seasonal Recipe

Cob nuts are now in the local vegetable shops, or of course, you can gather your own from the hedgerows. So here’s a delicious snack which is very easy to make.

You’ll need around 200g of shelled cobnuts, and 25-50g of butter.

Put the ingredients, together with a little salt, into a shallow, uncovered dish. Microwave on high (750W) for 3 minutes, stir, cook for another 3 minutes, and stir again. If the nuts are not yet crisp, cook for another 3 minutes, checking that they do not burn. Serve warm with drinks when you have friends around for Halloween or Bonfire Night.

Readers Tips

Plant ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers in a tub and keep by the front door. They’ll flower during milder winter periods, filling the entrance to your home with that delicious, distinctive, wallflower scent.

C.P. Pontarddulais

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