So no real Indian summer to speak of this year , apart from a week of warm southern air before Ophelia blew past. Most of us are harvesting what is left of our summer veg for storing or eating and planting garlic and onion sets whilst the soil is still warm. This time of year is really about tidying , pruning , emptying pots , composting and mulching.
I don't know about you guys / girls out there but this is the time of year when I lose a little interest in the garden....I've had all the joy of planning, sowing , planting and then watching it all grow , to then harvesting , showing and eating. Now is the time to retreat into the warmth with a hot toddy in front of a fire and the telly !
No , No , No says the wife...get out out there and put the garden to bed for the winter and preparation for next spring...so out I go !
So the first thing is harvest the last of the summer crops...Tomatoes , peppers , chillies , rhubarb , apples , cauliflowers which we eat , freeze make jam etc. The exhausted plants grown in pots in the greenhouse I throw on the compost , whilst throwing the earth from the pots onto my borders and beds. Whilst there is little nutrient left in the soil it will help condition and break down the heavy clay soil I have. I leave my carrots , parsnips , swede , Brussels in the ground or barrels through the winter ( some people pick and store carrots in sand ..I don't.) Next we have tidying jobs..rake up leaves and compost them along with all shrubs and plants that are finished. Cut the lawn if you have one , hopefully for the last time , and add newspaper or cardboard which you wet to the compost. Add fruit and any other plant matter to the compost and chicken manure if you have any . Turn the lot once a month if you can for wonderful results next year.
Next we dig over borders , raised beds and prune back shrubs , roses , plants that need it ( do not prune plum , cherry or big stone fruit trees as it is too late and you risk infecting them with winter born silver leaf disease). Clear all rhubarb stems and mulch crowns heavily...cut back asparagus furns and mulch similarly.
Put grease bands on all fruit trees now or you will be at the mercy of the wingless winter moth which crawls up the stem from November to lay its eggs. You can even buy grease in tins and apply with a brush.....just do it peoples.
Lift pots onto feet if you haven't already to help with air flow and avoid water logging. Store any of your favourite pots if they have nothing in them. If there are frost tender plants in them the very least you should do is fleece them or put in a protected area.
Dig up your tubors of lilies , dahlias and amorillis etc and once dried off for a few days keep snug in a frost free but cool environment like a shed wrapped loosely in newspaper. Well that's what I do.
Dry herbs ( sage , marjoram, thyme , bergamot, oregano ) for use through the winter...you should see my kitchen with all the garlic , shallots , onions and herbs hanging from the cupboards.
Now for next season you can take hardwood cuttings ( red and black currents , gooseberries etc plus laburnums or geraniums , roses ) . The cuttings should be about 20cm long , planted in a trench in a sheltered , composted and free draining position. Simply dip each end in hormone rooting powder and plant about 20cm apart. Roots may take 9 months to really develope.
Lastly we can sow now for next year. Broad beans , garlic and onion sets need to go in the ground now. In fact garlic and onion sets can be grown in big buckets too. Great to see the shoots pop up through the surface over the winter and then romp away in spring...great for kids because they see it growing in spring and don't have to wait till the end of summer for results ! Google any of these thoughts for better info online.
Now for that seat in front of the fire....
Every month I will give a short update on what to be doing in your veggie patch. No matter how small a front or back garden, you can grow something edible in pots, tubs or beds. Don't worry about lettuce shortages because of the rain in Spain (tee hee) just sow your own.