Broad Beans and Peas
Extra early crops of broad beans and peas can be obtained next Summer by sowing now. Winter-hardy varieties such as “Aquadulce Claudia” broad beans and “Meteor” peas will be needed. Just plant enough to supply you with what can be consumed in the 3 weeks or so that these will add to the start of your cropping season.
If you didn’t do so last month then now is your last chance to plant over-wintering onion sets. (See Sep for details.)
You can use a garlic bulb bought from a grocery store but much better results will be obtained by choosing a known variety, suited to a northern climate, from a seed supplier. I’ve had success over recent years with “White christo”, “Solent white”, “Lautrec white”, “Germidor”, “Eden rose”, “Early purple”, “Chesnok red”, “Albigensian white” and “Messidrome”
Some varieties can be over-wintered – for example “Radar”, “Jermor” and “Echalotte Griselle”.
Early Summer Cauliflower
Either sow in pots to be kept in a cold-frame over Winter, or sow in a nursery bed with cloche/fleece protection. Recommended varieties include “Snow Crown”, “Snowball”, “Gypsy” and “All Year Round”.
If you are hoping to store your pumpkins into the Winter then they will need to be “cured” to harden the skins and seal in the moisture. Leave them on the plant as long as possible, raised off the damp soil on straw or an empty plant pot and then, once the plant starts to die back, leave the pumpkins in the sun for 1 to 2 weeks. They should feel hard and hollow when tapped.
Get Ready For The First Frost
Any day now will come the first frost of the season which will ‘do for’ your more tender plants – courgettes, outdoor tomatoes, beans, spinach and many varieties of lettuce. Pick as much as is ready before it is too late and protect what remains with horticultural fleece in an attempt to extend the cropping period.
Order Fruit Trees/Bushes
Nurseries will start sending out bare rooted shrubs and trees towards the end of this month. Get your order in as soon as possible, not only to bag the varieties you want before they sell out, but also to give your new plants the best possible chance of getting established in their new locations.
Prepare planting holes now whilst the ground is still workable, adding a good amount of organic matter and some bone meal (remember, this is your one and only chance to prepare the soil beneath the tree/bush in its lifetime, so make the most of it).
Collect Falling Leaves For Leafmould
Leafmould (compost made from fallen Autumn leaves) is an extremely valuable resource, making not only excellent soil conditioner but also an ideal main ingredient for your own potting compost. When used as the latter it is one of the best, and most environmentally sustainable, substitutes for peat. All types of deciduous leaves are good, although some will break down quicker than others (oak and beech are the quickest).
Collect up autumn leaves into a dedicated compost heap or, if more convenient, put them in bin bags (if the latter, you will need to pierce holes to aid aeration and also add some water). If they have fallen on a lawn then collect them using a lawn mower; the chopping will help them rot down, and a small amount of grass clippings mixed in will do no harm at all.
They will take 2 to 3 years to break down properly, although there will be some useful product which can be sieved out within a year (that will be the oak and beech).
If you sowed biennials in a nursery bed earlier in the year (see June tips), or if you have come across self-sown biennials such as forget-me-not, now is a good time to transplant them to their final location in the flower borders.
Repair Netting Before Packing It Away
This time of year you’ll start to collect in much of the netting that’s been protecting your fruit and veg throughout the growing season. A bit of care taken now will save you much time, cost and frustration next year when you need to get that netting back out in a hurry. Repair holes and tears with garden twine; fold or roll the net up carefully and put each in a separate bag; write on the bag, or even better on a label tied to a corner of the net, how big the net is (so that next season you’ll be able to locate a net of the size you need without having to unroll every piece).
Wildflower Meadow – Sow Yellow Rattle
If you are planning to create a wildflower meadow, or if your existing meadow is choked with grass, then you can do no better than sow some yellow rattle on the area this month. (When I say “meadow” here I’m referring to anything from a couple of square feet upwards in size.)
Yellow rattle is a little annual that’s semi-parasitic on grass. Its effect in a meadow is to reduce the amount of grass growing and to open up the ground for the germination and establishment of wild flowers. Further information on the use and purchase of this fantastic little flower can be obtained from Scotia Seeds.
Plant Spring Flowering Ornamental Bulbs
Spring flowering bulbs – daffodil, crocus, anemone, fritillary, chionodoxa, puschkinia, allium, muscari, hyacinth and bluebell, to name but a few – bring welcome patches of often intense colour to the garden at a time when the ground can otherwise seem rather bare. They are available now in garden centres. Get them planted as soon as possible. (Note however the exception of tulips. If planted too early they are susceptible to disease and frost damage at the growing tips. Plant instead in November or December.)
Lift And Divide Perennials
Many types of perennials can be propagated if you “lift and divide” the rootball (a process that can also be used to rein in an over-crowded specimen). It is often recommended that this is done in Spring but, for many plants, now is the best possible time. This is because:
- The soil is still workable
- The soil still has some warmth and plenty of available moisture, encouraging some root growth before Winter and thus helping the plant to become established
- You’re likely to have a readily available supply of organic matter to prepare the planting site with, in the form of garden compost or old grow-bags from the greenhouse.
Common examples of plants that can be divided now are delphinium, dicentra, hardy geranium, lady’s mantle, aquilegia, campanula, lily-of -the-valley, dianthus, bergenia, peony and heuchera.
Rhubarb also falls into this category; now is the ideal time to increase your stock by division, revive an over-grown plant or plant a newly bought specimen.
Take Hardwood Cuttings
An easy and free way of obtaining a wide range of fruit bushes – gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, etc. – is to take hardwood cuttings. Lengths of woody stem from this season’s growth, about 9” long, are taken. These are planted outdoors with about 3” of stem above ground in free-draining earth, where they can then be left to their own devices for the next year. Next Autumn/Winter the rooted cuttings can then be moved to their final location. The success rate of this method is around 50%, so take a good number of cuttings (planted 9” apart they will take up only a small amount of space).
Whether you’re laying an entire lawn, putting in grass paths between beds, or making repairs to lawn edges, November is a good time to lay turf as the ground is still warm enough to allow the roots to get established but there is little risk of the turfs drying out.
Pest Of The Month – Winter Moth
Caterpillars of the winter moth hatch in late winter to early spring and feed on the leaves, blossom and fruitlets of many types of deciduous tree, including most types of garden fruit tree. The best time to act against this pest is now as, towards the end of this month, the flightless female moths will emerge from pupae in the soil and climb up into the trees to lay their eggs. Specially designed “grease bands” can be purchased from the garden centre which will act as a barrier, stopping the moth from laying its eggs in your tree(s). Bare in mind that the moth will climb tree stakes or neighbouring trees to get where it wants to be, so make sure the canopy is completely isolated.
In The Greenhouse
Change Border Soil
Even if the soil in the greenhouse borders is enriched with organic matter and fertilizer each year, you should dig out and replace the top soil every 3-5 years to stop the build up of diseases (and to stop the border soil over-flowing due to the annual addition of matter). Early Autumn is a good time to do this as there is a gap between the removal of summer crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) and the planting of winter crops (lettuce, carrots, etc).
Sow Salad Leaves
There is still time to sow lettuces and various salad leaves in the borders for use throughout the winter on a cut-and-come-again basis.
Sow Sweet Peas
Sweet peas can be sown now and planted out next spring for an extra early summer display. Over-winter in the “cool” greenhouse, keeping them moist but not over-watered. Trials show that autumn sown are better than spring. Plants are more vigorous and flower around 4 weeks earlier.
Continue To Care For Tomato Plants
With a little care, tomato plants can be kept alive and producing ripened fruit throughout October. Although you should ensure the soil does not dry out, it is important not to over-water at this stage otherwise the fruits will split.
If you act sooner rather than later, it is still possible to dig up young and vigorous specimens of many different types of perennial herbs to bring inside for an extended growing season.
Previous Tips That Still Apply
- Green Manure – Still time to sow field beans, forage peas or forage rye (See Sep for details)
- Cane Fruit – Tie in new canes of summer raspberries as they grow. (See Sep for details)
- Seed Collecting – Pea, bean (french, broad and runner), courgette, pumpkin/squash, pepper/chilli, lettuce, chard and tomato seeds, as well as many types of ornamental plants. (See Sep for details)
- Trench Composting – Consider trench composting in a bed where next year you plan to grow runner beans, pumpkins, courgettes or sweet corn. (See Sep for details)
- Grass Sowing – there is still time to sow grass seed. (See Sep for details)
- Forced Bulbs For Indoor Winter Flowers – Many spring-flowering bulbs can be planted in pots now and forced into early growth for indoor flowers in Winter. If you started forcing bulbs last month and now have them growing in a cool dark place, make sure they do not become dried out. (See Sep for details)