Nation Of Gardeners October Planting Update: the last of the blooms and the protection of overwintered peas

We were only a few days into the month of October and the warmth we had enjoyed across the UK during September was consigned to memory only.  The month started with wind, very heavy rains and frosts in some areas of the UK which had us wondering if this was a foretaste of what is to come this winter.  The month continued to be very wet and windy with a miserable grey murky sky becoming a regular feature.

The winter of 2013 to 2014 was warm, with some areas of the UK not seeing any frosts at all, and many areas that ordinarily would have snow seeing hardly more than a scattering.  We cannot depend on this being  a new theme for the upcoming winter of 2014/15 though.  It seems fitting therefore that we test out an overwinter plant for its winter hardiness, which is what our October parcel asked our gardeners to do.

We selected a plant that is particularly well suited to surviving the winter, but we wanted to see exactly how these plants perform in the UK’s very diverse range of winters.  Winter in the South is not the same as winter in the North as many people across the UK will be able to testify.


A round up of October’s planting tasks

Pea Meteor freshly plantedPicking the first crop of peas has to be one of the highlights of the vegetable growing year with a taste that is so delicious and sweet when picked straight from the plant and popped into your mouth whilst still out in the garden.  And so being able to pick them a month or so earlier must be a temptation that is almost impossible to resist.

In October we sent out Pea Meteor plants that had been module raised in the Mr Fothergill’s nursery and that already had a well-developed root system.  Pea Meteor is a strong and robust performer and if sown in October from seed and planted out in the garden by the end of the month, will crop from as early as May.  At least this is the theory and we wanted to see if this was true across the UK. We suspect that our more Southerly based gardeners would find this claim to be true, but farther North there may be some trouble getting these plants to perform.

In order to put these pea plants through their paces, we asked our gardeners to plant out in the open ground rather than keep them protected under a coldframe or in a greenhouse.  We suggested that a little cloche protection to prevent heavy snow destroying the plants would be ok, but that otherwise, we wanted these plants to fight for themselves.

By the end of the month, most gardeners had lost some of their plants and some gardeners had lost all their pea plants altogether – such as in the Peak District and Hemel Hempstead.  By mid-November as the picture below shows we have flowers forming in Suffolk, Cheshire and Pontypridd, and there is a pea pod forming on the plant to the right in Devon.  Our gardener in Bristol also has flowers and our gardener in Buckinghamshire also reported a pea pod forming on her plant there too showing that the pollinators haven’t gone into hibernation just yet.

Meteor Peas



October 2013 through to September 2014 updates

The focus for many of our group during October was to finish off harvesting flowers and vegetables, but also to get down to the pernickety business of pricking out seedlings and preparing winter pansies for planting out in beds.  Our gardener in Bristol is much enamoured with her pansies already and sent us these wonderful portraits of the different ‘personalities’ blooming forth from her pots and beds around the garden.

Bristol pansies

As this picture from our gardener in Suffolk below shows, we have some very neat and tidy gardeners in our midst!  Thus far into late autumn and early winter, late sown perennials and the planted out winter pansies are all doing very well for our gardeners.  How the late sown perennials will survive the winter months as it gets colder remains to be seen though.  They are very young plants and so will have to fight for survival, along with a little careful protection from our gardeners, as the winter really starts to bite.

Late sown perennials pricked out in Suffolk

joanne_radish_26Oct2014Our Suffolk gardener also posted us this wonderful picture of her first crop of radishes on 25 October.  This was a variety in a group of late sown salad crops that we asked our gardeners to put in the open ground in September.  While for some, the salads have been slow to develop, our more southerly located participants have been enjoying tasty crops of crunchy salads for weeks now.

These salads have been perfectly complimenting the remainder harvests of Snackbite and King of the North peppers.

Cheshire Snackbite peppers

Shown here is our Cheshire gardener’s crop of Snackbite peppers, and she also reported that her cucamelon still had tiny fruits forming on the plant that was still green and healthy by the close of October.

It seems that some valuable learning has come out of the Nation of Gardeners trials for our participants.  Many of our gardeners have elected to autumn sow broad beans following the success of their experience doing this in the autumn versus spring trial conducted as part of the project in the last 12 months.

During October a lot of our gardeners were also harvesting their ‘Christmas’ Potatoes!  A full two months early, we can safely conclude that this experiment didn’t fare too well.

The warmth of the summer and early autumn resulted in many of the plants developing very quickly and going over far too soon.  The yield was also disappointing for some, with 5 tubers producing a couple of pounds on average.  Good for a meal or two, but not the bumper crop we might otherwise have anticipated.  Shown below from left to right is the potato crops of our gardeners in Renfrewshire on 9 November, Suffolk on 17 October and in Cheshire on 14 October.

Christmas potatoes


The late sown annuals – sown later than recommended at the end of June – have continued to reward our gardeners with some wonderful colour at the time of year where colour is rapidly failing.  Throughout October and into the start of November there are still many flower heads to be seen on these plants, though by mid-November their days are numbered.

Annuals October


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