Posts Tagged ‘october’

What to do in the garden in October

October 1st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

On the whole September was warm and pleasant in our part of Suffolk, and many of the flowers on the trial ground have looked good right through the month. Not surprisingly, our tuber-raised dahlias have been the stars with their magnificent blooms in so many colours and bicolors. Seed-raised dahlias also perform really well, and we know it still surprises some customers that they can be raised from seed, and will easily flower in their first year. While many gardeners tend to treat them as half-hardy annuals, they are actually half-hardy perennials and will produce tubers which can be lifted after the first frosts and stored somewhere cool and dry until next spring, when they can be replanted. All that for the price of a packet of seeds!

October - Sweet PeasFlowers
It’s October, so we make no apologies for making a big mention of sweet peas. This is the best month to sow sweet pea seed in pots to over-winter in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The stocky little plants can then be planted out in March or April to produce an early and long-lasting display of these beautiful flowers.

Our range of sweet peas is one of the best and widest you will find anywhere. In recent years it is true to say the sweet pea has almost become our ‘flagship’ flower, and we are proud of the worthwhile and exclusive introductions we make every year. Among our new ‘exclusives’ ready for sowing this month are two which we feel deserve special mention.

Chelsea Pensioners were on hand at our trial ground recently to name a blend of sweet peas in red shades aimed at raising funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It has been called Scarlet Tunic, after the Pensioners’ distinctive apparel, following a ballot of the residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a public online vote. We will donate 25p to the Royal Hospital Chelsea for every £2.19 packet of 20 seeds sold.

We hope Britain’s gardeners will help us to raise more funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea with the launch of Scarlet Tunic for the 2016/17 season and in the years ahead. Our great customers have already helped raise more than £50,000 for the Royal Hospital Chelsea through sales in 2015 and 2016 of poppy Victoria Cross. A very big ‘thank you’ to you all.

We are also pledging our support for Greenfingers, the charity dedicated to creating magical gardens for children’s hospices, by naming another new and exclusive sweet pea after it. Sweet pea Greenfingers has an old-fashioned grandiflora flower form and the strong, memorable scent associated with those types in their Victorian heyday; its blooms are a rich cream with a delicate wire rim or picotée of pale violet. The climber is well suited to both garden display and as a cut flower, when its fragrance fills a room.

We have guaranteed 25p to Greenfingers for every packet of 20 seeds priced at £2.45 we sell during the 2016/17 gardening season. Greenfingers is a national charity dedicated to supporting the children who spend time in hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating inspiring gardens for them to relax in and enjoy. The charity makes beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces for children to share with family, friends and siblings, whether through play and fun, or therapeutic rest and relaxation. To date Greenfingers Charity has created 51 such gardens and outdoor spaces, and has a further waiting list of hospices that need its help.

October - TulipsMost summer-flowering bedding and container plants will be ‘going over’ this month, and can be lifted and composted. Once the ground is clear and has been forked over, why not plant some spring-flowering bulbs and start looking forward to the first colourful display of 2017? We offer a terrific range of tulips – surely the most flamboyant of all spring performers. Plant them in October or November, and you can just about forget about them until they burst into bloom next April and May. This year we are offering many collections of tulips in complementary or contrasting colours, and plenty of single varieties for those of you who prefer to do your own colour-coordination.

Hardy perennials can be cut back during October to within a few inches of the ground. Discard the cut stems and any foliage strewn around the plants, as this will discourage pests and diseases which may otherwise lurk there during the winter. Once dahlia foliage has been blackened by the first one or two frosts, carefully lift the tubers with a fork, as you would potatoes, leave three or four inches of stem and store them somewhere dry, cool, but frost-free until you want them to burst into growth again next spring.

As buddleias finish flowering, it is advisable to cut them back to around half their height so they do not become rocked by autumn and winter gales, causing them to become loose in the soil. Next March they can be cut back much closer to the ground to encourage new growth and plenty of butterfly-attracting blooms.

Vegetables
October - Broad Beans AguadulceWinter-cropping brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, kale and savoy cabbages will benefit from the application of a general-purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone to help them grow a little more before the weather deteriorates. Hoe it in carefully round the stems without damaging the plants.

Seed of hardy peas and broad beans can be sown during October to provide a really welcome, early summer crop next year. Pea Meteor is one of the best for autumn sowing, and it does well with minimal support, even in cold, exposed locations. There are several excellent over-wintering broad beans from which to choose. Bunyards Exhibition and Aguadulce (formerly Aquadulce) are probably the two most widely grown, but The Sutton is a great choice for small gardens or windy sites, as the plants remain dwarf and compact throughout their life. Broad beans do best in well drained soil and in a reasonably sheltered position.

If you have not already done so, lift any remaining maincrop potatoes still in the ground as soon as possible. This will save them from either slug or frost damage. Store the tubers somewhere cool, dark and dry. Once the tops of Jerusalem artichokes start to turn yellow, the plants can be cut back close to the ground, leaving the tubers beneath the soil to be harvested as required in the weeks ahead.

If any parts of the garden or allotment are currently fallow after earlier crops have been harvested, sowing a green manure can do the soil a power of good. Depending on what is sown, it is possible to improve soil structure, increase its fertility, prevent the leaching of nutrients, and they will all help to suppress weeds. Among others, we offer crimson clover, lucerne (alfafa) and winter grazing rye.

Whether you are growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or aubergines in the greenhouse, it is a good idea to pick all you can this month and discard the plants. By the end of the month it should be possible to clean it out with warm water and a proprietary disinfectant to ensure it is not harbouring any diseases through the winter.

Fruit
October - Raspberry Polka canes from Mr Fothergill'sIf you like the idea of a fruit bush or two in the garden or on the allotment, remember we are despatching our bare-root currants and gooseberries from this month onwards. We are very keen on the new blackcurrant Ebony, which is the sweetest one we know. The currants are larger fruited than other varieties and contain up to 15 per cent sugar, giving them a lovely full, rounded flavour. Ebony does well in our climate and has some resistance to mildew. In gooseberries, Xenia is one of the sweetest in our experience. This early season variety can be picked from June and into July, and the berries are sweet enough to be eaten straight from the bush.

Freshly picked raspberries take some beating in our book, and the new autumn-fruiting (primocane) Paris is one of the very best. The large berries can weigh more than 5gm each, and they are wonderfully sweet, aromatic and juicy. You should be picking Paris from August through to October. We begin despatch in 9cm pots from November, so now is the time to order this rather special new variety.

What to do in the garden in October

October 2nd, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

As summer started to edge gently into autumn during September, misty mornings gave way to plenty of still-warm days, even if conditions remained overcast rather than sunny for much of the time.  We received very little rainfall in this most westerly corner of Suffolk, and September has been generally a very pleasant month, providing us with, as it often does, an ‘Indian summer’ to enjoy before autumn arrives.

As October now gets underway, autumn now seems to be well and truly on the way, although at the end of September our trial field in Kentford was still full of colour from all the flowers and full of vegetables ready for harvesting.

Photo 11-09-2014 12 57 20

On the whole, we feel this summer has been one of the better ones, although the above-average temperatures we experienced for so much of the time meant many of our annual flowers ‘went over’ rather more quickly than we would have liked.  We are never satisfied, are we?

 

Jobs in the flower garden in October

Sweet Pea ErewhonWe always like to begin October by looking at sweet peas.  To many keen growers of this favourite annual this is the start of the sweet pea season with seed being sown either in pots to over-winter in a cold frame or greenhouse, or direct in the garden in the plants’ flowering position.  Many sweet pea enthusiasts make their sowings during the first fortnight of the month, but there is a no hard-and-fast rule about this.  Late September through to mid November is the ‘window’ in which many people sow their seed.

There is no doubt that sowing sweet pea seeds in autumn has many benefits.  The resulting plants, which are usually hardy in all but the severest of winters, have a head start come next spring.  They flower earlier and longer than those plants produced from spring-sown seed, so we get more bunches of flowers and for longer.

We offer one of the finest ranges of sweet peas and have a good relationship with Dr Keith Hammett from New Zealand, who is the world’s best breeder of these beautiful flowers.   Browse our range of sweet pea seeds and take a pick of what you fancy in your garden this season.

Calendula grown by one of our Nation of GardenersIt really is not too soon to start thinking about next year’s display of hardy annuals either, so why not direct-sow seed of subjects such as calendula, nigella, candytuft and cornflower during October?

The soil will still be warm, so seedlings will germinate quickly and make enough growth before any hard frosts arrive later in the year to see themselves through the winter, bursting into flower early next summer considerably earlier than seedlings produced from spring-sown seed.  If you have never tried this method before, it really is well worth a go!

While roses are generally given their main prune in February or early March, just before the new season’s growth begins, it is a good idea to cut them back by about half during October, as this stops them being rocked and sometimes disturbed by the wind.  Shrubs such as buddleia and lavatera would benefit from the same treatment.  After giving rose a ‘half-prune’ collect up any remaining foliage from the soil to prevent the development of fungal diseases which can attack the plants.

Tulip bulb collectionThis is the month when many of us start planting spring-flowering bulbs.  Hyacinths, daffodils (narcissi) and croci (we still use the old fashioned plural!) can all be planted during October, but delay tulip planting until late in the month or into November, as this will tend to help them prevent being attacked by tulip fire disease.  We think all these bulbs look best planted in informal drifts and close together to create dense patches of colour.  Remember too the great majority of spring bulbs can also be planted in containers where they will flower successfully.  Bulbs are surely the easiest of all flowers to grow – it is virtually a case of plant them and forget them!

Pansy BeaconsfieldAs half-hardy annuals, bedding and container plants start to fade, pull these up and add them to the compost heap.  They can be replaced either by pansies, violas, primroses and polyanthus, which will all give a welcome splash of colour during milder winter spells, or by spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinths.  Dwarf daffodils are particularly versatile because they look great in beds and at the front of borders and are also perfect for planting in containers close to the house.  Remember to plant a tub or two of hyacinths near the house too, so you can appreciate their heady perfume every time you come out of the door next March and April.

If dahlias are still flowering into October, keep removing any dead-heads to encourage them to keep on blooming until they are cut down by the first frosts of autumn.  No need to lift the tubers until the foliage has been blackened by a hard frost or two.  Only store sound specimens, keeping them somewhere dry, cool and frost-free over the winter.

 

Jobs in the vegetable garden in October

Brussels sproutsWe particularly enjoy October in the vegetable garden, as this is the month when the traditional winter vegetables are just becoming ready to harvest.  Parsnips, leeks, Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbages and kale now take over from summer crops of runner and French beans, courgettes and sweet corn – and are every bit as eagerly anticipated.

We know you can buy so many vegetables all the year round from the supermarkets, but we sometimes wonder where the fun is in that?  As a certain book tells us ‘To every thing there is a season‘, and this is the season for parsnips and Brussels sprouts!

Autumn sown broad beans from our Nation of Gardeners

October means it’s also time to sow broad bean seeds and look forward to that early crop next May.  Aguadulce is a splendid choice, as is Bunyards Exhibition.  In colder areas the seed and seedlings will benefit from a little fleece protection.  Aguadulce produces small, fine beans of lovely quality and flavour, while ‘Bunyards’ generally gives larger beans and one or two more per pod.

Pea MeteorWhere you have a spare patch or two in the vegetable garden or on the allotment, how about an October sowing of early peas?  Meteor is probably still the best early pea for autumn sowing, even if it has been about for donkeys’ years!  It only grows to around 2ft tall, does well even in exposed sites and will provide you with that unforgettable first picking of home-grown peas early next summer.  It’s what vegetable gardening is all about, surely!

If you are growing pumpkins, squashes and marrows, cut these and bring them in before the first frosts arrive.  It is best if pumpkins and squashes can be left in the greenhouse or cold frame for a week or two to ‘cure’ before being put into storage.  Pumpkins will be in demand from youngsters as Hallowe’en approaches at the end of the month.

Runner beans will just about be over now, so they too can be pulled up and composted.  The top growth of Jerusalem artichokes can be cut down virtually to the ground, chopped up and added to the compost heap.  Maincrop carrots can continue to be lifted as required.  Our light, free-draining soil has yielded some excellent crops this year and the quality of some of the roots of our F1 hybrid varieties has been very good indeed.  The seed may be more expensive than that of open-pollinated varieties, but at harvest time it is easy to see how worthwhile the little additional cost is.

Chilli PeppersIf you have not already so, harvest any remaining chilli peppers.  Green fruits tend not to be as hot as orange and red ones, but take care when preparing any of them.  It is a good idea to wear disposable, clear plastic gloves when handling and chopping them because it is so easy to touch close to your eyes with your hand while preparing them, which is not a pleasant experience.  Remember that any glut of chillis can be frozen and used throughout the year until next year’s crop is ready.

There is still time to plant garlic, shallots and over-wintering onion sets in the garden in October to provide an early crop next summer.  Once planted, they require very little attention, but do keep any competition from weeds to a minimum.  They are much more susceptible to poor drainage than they are to low temperatures and, given good drainage, they are hardy even in very cold winters.  Garlic in particular generally produces heavier and better crops from an autumn planting than from a spring one.

The first frosts may mean winter is well on the way, but we welcome them if only because Brussels sprouts and parsnips both taste sweeter once they have been ‘frosted’.  It’s a matter of personal opinion, of course, but in our view a couple of frosts seem to concentrate the flavour of these vegetables.

 

Jobs in the fruit garden in October

Rhubarb

We know that technically rhubarb is a vegetable, but because it is used mainly in dessert dishes we think of it more as a fruit.  We have a real treat for all rhubarb lovers, because now they can enjoy those succulent, sweet sticks from September to November.  Our Livingstone rhubarb plant is the first autumn-cropping variety, it’s British bred and has had its summer dormancy eliminated; this is what causes rhubarb to stop cropping by the middle of summer.  So for the first time you can now combine fresh rhubarb with other autumn fruits to create mouth-watering desserts such as rhubarb, apple and blackberry crumble.

Livingstone yields an excellent crop of high quality, deep red skinned stems. It’s very easy to grow – just incorporate some bonemeal or organic matter when planting and, once established, it will crop heavily from September onwards.  It can be ordered from us now for planting this autumn.  It is delicious and we are sure you will enjoy it.

On already established plants in the garden you will now find that rhubarb leaves have died back.  The dormant crowns will benefit from a 3in mulch of well-rotted garden compost or farmyard manure.  If you feel any clump is now too large, lift and divide it, getting rid of the central section and re-planting the younger sections from round the outside of the crown.