October 2010


Updates from October 2010.

October 2010

Has everybody had enough rain yet? I was made aware recently of rainfall’s variable nature by a neighbour five miles away whose summer total of rainfall was only a third of what fell here. The soil was cracked over there (still is at time of writing, late September) and the apples have not swollen as much as usual – but their tomatoes are good!

Here we had close to 3” in September, two thirds of it in the last week. I watered the outdoor salads, tunnels and recent plantings, but not much else. Celeriac look fantastic, squashes are now ripening – mildew on the leaves is a natural part of that process.

We have harvested some gorgeous red Sunspot of about 1kg each; parsnips are long, leeks are full of caterpillars but surviving the onslaught to a point, and work is underway in the tunnels to remove summer vegetables such as basil, aubergines, melons and cucumbers.

Already gone are cucumbers, melons, aubergines and most basil; tomatoes still ripening and of good flavour, without any blight, and sweet peppers to the right are cropping well especially Diablo.

In their place we are planting a wide range of winter salads such as pak choi, chervil, winter purslane, endive, chicory, coriander, parsley and chard. The main plantings around October 10th will be of lettuce Grenoble Red, mustards Red Frills and Green in the Snow (be careful not to grow too many of the latter, its leaves are extremely hot), leaf radish. spinach, more purslane and finally some mizuna towards month’s end.

The lettuce plants are absolutely raring to go, from seed saved in the tunnel this year, off lettuce sown last September.

Lettuce plants were picked for leaves until May, then I left one unpicked to heart up and flower, before pulling up the whole plant and rubbing out seed in August. When sown alongside some recently bought lettuce seed from Marshalls, it has grown way, way faster, see the photo below:

Slugs may be a nuisance this month if October turns damp. I already lost some endive plants in the tunnel, after basil, and was shocked when venturing out with a torch to see so many medium sized brown slugs having a lovely meal. They have now gone to slug heaven, and luckily I have some spare plants – autumn salads quite often need a second planting to fill gaps.

My kale was all sown in June and planted after garlic and spinach in early July; plants now look fantastic, with little caterpillar damage. However there are ominous holes in the developing hearts of Fildekraut cabbage. I had them covered with mesh in July and August but they outgrew it, so I plan to buy some three or four metre wide mesh for taller plants next summer, including leeks.

It is disappointing to need so many covers but they seem the most certain remedy at present. At least a well made mesh should last for many years.

Still under a mesh cover at the moment are some calabrese plants which were set out in early August, after clearing broad beans. The ground was dry and hard but I managed to dib holes and gave the plants a little water when passing; now they look absolutely amazing and I hope they head up in October and November. But again, the 2.1m wide mesh is pushing up along the bed’s side and caterpillars may be in the developing heads.

Garlic needs planting now: break up your biggest bulbs and plant all the large cloves at about 6” apart, or 4×15” in rows across or along beds. I use a dibber to make holes 1-2” deep and then cover the bed with an inch or two of compost or well rotted manure. Similarly for broad beans, later in the month, the final outdoor sowing.

A last planting in early October is spring cabbage, varieties such as Offenhams, April and Wheelers Imperial. Plants want to be sturdy because slugs like them, and they will need netting against pigeons.