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October should see you harvesting the last of many of the year’s crops – those that may not survive the first frosts of the winter: beans, pumpkins, squashes, apples, pears, and even autumn raspberries and strawberries. Much of the work to be done this month involves clearing away and composting old plant material that’s now dead or dying off, taking down bean and pea supports and storing them away, and making a start on your winter digging.

Earth up Brussels sprouts

Keep earthing up the stems of Brussels sprouts, cabbages, and other brassicas to give them support as they become increasingly top-heavy. cut off any yellow leaves.

“Cure” pumpkins and squashes

Cut and leave pumpkins and squashes to dry in the sun. This “curing” hardens their skins and the tougher the skins, the longer they’ll keep.

A pile of ‘Uchiki Kuri’ squashes “ripening” as they dry and harden in the autumn sun.

A pile of ‘Uchiki Kuri’ squashes “ripening” as they dry and harden in the autumn sun.

Lift carrots and other roots

Potatoes and beetroot should all be harvested now. Carrots, turnips, and swedes can stay in the ground for longer, but it may be wiser to lift them and store them.

Mulch celeriac and parsnips

Parnips and celeriac are reasonably safe to leave in the ground. Indeed, parsnips are said to taste better after cold weather. Protect the plants by mulching them with straw or bracken.

Clear old vegetation

Remove all dead foliage and old, dying plants. Unless there are signs of disease add it all to your compost heap. Shred or pulverize thick, woody stems such as sweetcorn, beans, and brassicas so that they decompose more quickly.

Remove plant supports

Clear away bean poles, canes, pea sticks, and tomato stakes and store them somewhere under cover. If you leave them out all winter, they’ll quickly rot.

Break up heavy soil

Dig over beds where the soil has become hard and compacted. Pull out any weeds as you go.

Dig in green manures

Chop and dig in green manures that will not overwinter. They will swiftly rot down and become incorporated into the soil.

Cover beds with polythene

Spreading sheets over the soil keeps off the worst of the rain and suppresses weeds, as well as allowing you to sow earlier next spring.

Order new fruit trees and bushes

Next month is a good time for planting many new, bare-rooted trees and bushes, so order plants from nurseries now if you didn’t do so last month.

Dry out beans for storage

If the weather is dry, leave bean pods on the plants to dry. If it’s wet, cut them down and hang them up indoors or somewhere dry and sheltered. When they are completely dried, pod them and store the beans in airtight containers.

‘Blue Coco’ French beans thoroughly dried and ready for storage.

‘Blue Coco’ French beans thoroughly dried and ready for storage.

Cut down asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes

If you didn’t do it last month, chop down to the ground yellowing asparagus foliage and the stems and foliage of Jerusalem artichokes. Compost it all.

Earth up leeks and celery

Draw earth up around leeks and trench celery to keep the stems blanched.

Lift chicory for forcing

After the first frosts, you can start digging up chicory and replanting the roots to force them.

Cover late crops with cloches

If temperatures drop, especially at night, protect autumn salads and oriental leaves with cloches or fleece.

Harvest apples and pears

Pick the last of your apples and pears this month. Cook or eat straight away any that are damaged. Store only perfect fruit: any that are blemished will simply rot and infect the others.

Late-season apples boxed up and ready for storage.

Late-season apples boxed up and ready for storage.

Finish pruning blackberries and summer raspberries

By now you should have cut out all the old canes that carried this year’s fruit. new, non-fruiting canes should be tied in ready for next year.

Pest and disease watch

 

Vegetables

Cabbage aphids

Grey mould

Leek moth caterpillars

Pigeons

Powdery mildew

 

Fruit

Brown rot

Canker

Pear rust

Powdery mildew

Raspberry beetle

Scab

Silver leaf

Winter moths

 

 

 

Text and photographs copyright © 2010 Alan Buckingham.

 

Allotment month by month by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Allotment Month by Month
(Dorling Kindersley, 2009)
Grow Vegetables by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Grow Vegetables
(Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Grow Fruit by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Grow Fruit
(Dorling Kindersley, 2010)