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October 10, 2023
October mid-autumn

Finally cooler

10th October, daylight levels are similar to late February. Yet it was 22°C 72°F yesterday, with soft hazy sunshine. Such weather is deceptive! We are forecast frost by mid-month.

Therefore now or soon, it's good to harvest all remaining squash, courgettes, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines and chillies. Or chilli plants in pots can be brought into the house.

See my latest newsletter for more seasonal advice and ideas.

Borlotti beans shelled out and now fully dry, from four teepees on 12 m² of bed

Ripe aubergines?

I'm popping in this photo because it's from a question I was asked on social media. A white aubergine from a packet described as purple aubergines. The gardener was patiently waiting for these fruits to turn purple! In fact they are ripe already because aubergines do notchange colour when ripe, unlike peppers.

Planting under cover

Mid-October is top time for this. Of sowings made in September, looking something like in my photo.

The brassica seedlings are smaller from being later sown, because they grow so fast. The lettuce were sown 10th September and have grown more rapidly from being this year's homesaved seed.

Lettuce nearest are four week old Grenoble Red lettuce, also there are mustards and salad rocket

Make more compost!

There is lots of material available at this time, to add to a compost heap. The more you can get in, the more warmth it will create and you could have compost by next spring, more likely during the summer. Make sure to cut the woody additions into lenths no more than 10cm / 4in, or smaller.

See this video about three types of compost heap. If you don't yet have a heap I recommend either conical plastic bins for small gardens, or pallet enclosures for medium-size gardens and large allotments.

My three pallet bay system with current heap nearest almost finished, furthest one ripening and ready to turn into the middle bay, after we spread its compost

Source woodchips

Now is a great season for asking around local tree surgeons. They may have new woodchips they can deliver. No worries if it's conifer wood because it's almost impossible to change the pH of soil!

We shall use these prunings next summer, after sieving to 12mm. They make a super usefil 'brown' in any compost heaps which are receiving lots of fresh leaves, weeds, vegetable trimmings etc.

Heap delivered 27th September and we watered it. Now the temperature is 60°C, around 130°F which means the wood is decomposing more quickly

Storing harvests

Three main vegetables which are best stored in the dry conditions of your house are winter squash, onions, and garlic. I still have a few squash outside but they need to come in soon, otherwise the stalks turn mouldy.

There's no rush yet to harvest beetroot, carrots, winter radish, fennel and celery. They stand a little frost, although fennel and celery are somewhat tender and I shall put covers of fleece over my last harvest of them before the frost mid-month. Much as cauliflower and calabrese, they suffer damage only in temperatures below about -1°C, 30°F.

2023 onions were exceptional ,and soon need to come into my house. Likewise the Crown Prince squash, which averaged three per plant of 2-3kg each.

Plant protection in winter

Even in mild winters, plants grow only slowly and that means there are few new leaves. It's the same older leaves being continually subjected to wind, rain, hail, freezing and often high levels of humidity.

Covers of mech help to mitigate the weather, plus they keep pests away. For larger braassica plants, too big for the mesh, we cover with bird netting.

Mesh cover over newly transplanted spring cabbage, they were sown in the greenhouse 30th August
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