Dig it with Fulke Andel

Gardening advice for the new (and not so new) gardener

dig-pic-1Thankfully we had some warm days in September but I don’t think we can class the summer of 2016 as a scorcher. The autumn is now definitely here with the wind making it feel much colder. However, it’s a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour and the early morning mists swirling around. Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the lawn, but just think of all the lovely leaf mould you can make! It’s also time to start preparing for early frosts, by moving vulnerable plants into frost free environments.

Once your vegetable garden is clear, dig it over and incorporate compost. Dig over your kitchen garden 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 (see next page). No need to do anything, just wait for 4 years! Next year, I’ll be breaking into the compost pen for 2011. Looking forward to it already, I’m sure it will prove to be a fine vintage!

Pumpkins on the table with rake for an afternoon of raking leaves

Don’t waste fallen leaves (the more astute of you will realise that this is the third time I’ve mentioned leaves!) – given time, they decompose into fabulously rich leaf mould – ‘nature’s soil conditioner of choice’! Here’s what to do…rake up fallen leaves and chuck them into black bin liners spiked with air holes – but remember to dampen the leaves first, or do the task on a damp day. Obviously you can make a simple frame with wire sides to hold leaves if you want, but black sacks work fine for me. If leaves are left to linger on the lawn for long, the grass will turn yellow. Leaf mould takes about a year to mature (two in the case of oak leaves), makes a great top dressing for woodland plants such as rhododendrons and is an excellent and FREE home-grown substitute for peat.

I keep mine for four years, by which time it’s broken down into really fine sweet smelling compost – ideal for sowing seeds in.

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.

Bay Template

dig-pic-3Our feathered friends will be starting to build 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 breed-ing 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, cooked potatoes and cooked rice. Bread is only an ‘empty filler’ so not ideal and remember never to put out mouldy food. 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!

A plentiful supply of clean water is essential for drinking and bathing; melt ice on frosty mornings with warm water, ensure the inside of your bird bath remains roughened and do remember to change the water regularly.

Jobs to do in the 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

Plant spring flowering bulbs in tubs or directly into the garden

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

Last chance to mow lawns and trim hedges in mild areas

Renovate old lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf

Seasonal Recipe – Roasted Squash

Baked pumpkin with rosemary and balsamic vinegar

Pumpkins and squashes are plentiful in the shops at the moment – mainly to satisfy the clamouring of kiddie-winks as they look forward to Halloween. So here’s a simple recipe for roasted squash. You will need about 1kg of squash (Crown Prince is best, but you can use Acorn, Butter-nut or of course Pumpkin). 8 Garlic cloves, 5 tbs of oil, sea salt and pepper. To add flavour you can use sprigs of rosemary, thyme or a pinch of chilli flakes. Slice the squash into quarters, scoop out the seeds. Cut into wedges place in a large bowl with the oil, herbs, garlic (skin on, squashed) salt and pepper. Mix and spread onto a baking tray. Place in a preheated oven at 190 deg C for around 40 to 50 mins.

Readers Tips

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. S.S. Southgate

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