Forest Garden
Preparing Your Garden for the Autumnal Months

2nd October 2020

“October is also the month for harvesting apples and late pears”

The weather is the key driver for activity in the vegetable garden in October. Frost marks the end of the road for many plants such as runner beans, peas, courgettes and outdoor tomatoes but it is also the trigger to enhancing the taste in leeks, sprouting broccoli and some cabbage types.

It is also the time when some pot grown fruits and vegetables are moved into the comparative warmth of the greenhouse. But beware that you are not taking unwanted guests along with them.  Slugs and vine weevils are such unwelcome lodgers and you don’t want them migrating around other plants.

An ideal way to control both is using nematodes. You mix them with water and pour onto pots and containers using a watering can with a coarse hose. A couple of treatments in October/November will ensure no further damage from these pests.

Although they will be killed off by frosts, do leave runner beans and peas in situ for a couple of weeks because they naturally add valuable nitrogen to the soil.

October is also the month for harvesting apples and late pears.  Many will store well over the winter providing they are kept in dark, frost-free areas where the air can circulate freely around them.  But watch out for mice attacks. Many green grocers have lots of stack-able plastic trays in which their vegetables arrive and are often only too happy to give them away. Lined with old newspaper, they make perfect storage units for over wintering apples.

When you have collected up the apples do not be tempted to start pruning the tree.  Leave that until the end of November or early December.

Providing the weather is dry and frost free, this month is a good time to turn over the soil in the vegetable garden. A thorough rough digging, adding some well-rotted farmyard manure or compost if available, will do wonders for the soil in the spring. There is no need to break down the larger lumps of earth as the winter frosts will do that for you.

The last of the autumn raspberries should be picked this month but do not prune the canes until February. Keep the soil weed free and a light hoe around the base of the plants will allow the winter rains the penetrate down to the roots.

The greenhouse will become the winter quarters for a lot of plants and tomato, aubergine and peppers will still be growing and fruiting. Be mindful of the amount of water your give them because, as temperatures even in the greenhouse drop, excess moisture will not be evaporated off and there is a risk of mildew and rot to some of the plants.

Now is a good time to sow some lettuce seeds for winter salads.

Keep greenhouses tidy. Do not store unwanted pots and boxes in them because they are perfect homes for pests. Allow the air to circulate. The glass will need to be kept clean to maximise the reducing amount of winter light. Make sure all broken windows are mended as all plants hate cold drafts. Check that greenhouse heaters are working and that your have the appropriate fuel for them.

A cold frame in the garden can add an extra month or two to the growing season both at the back end and in the spring as it significantly extends the growing season.

Keep your plants and yourselves warm – winter is on its way.