OCTOBER’S here and with it comes my yearly dose of garden laziness.
I have to force myself to get out and do things in the autumn – much more than in the proper cold of winter.
However, there are jobs that can’t be ignored.
Now’s the time to plant two of my favourite crops – autumn-planted garlic and Japanese Senshyu onions.
I prefer growing garlic this way as the cold leads to good bulb formation.
I’ve experimented with growing cloves in borders and you just don’t get well-formed bulbs – much better to grow them the traditional way.
Garlic needs well-drained soil in full sun. If your soil’s heavy, grow in raised beds, with plenty of organic material dug in.
Sow individual cloves 1” deep, 4” apart, with 18” between rows.
Prepare onion beds by digging in well-rotted compost a few weeks before planting (they can be put in as late as November).
Push them into weed-free soil 4” apart with 12” between rows in full sun, with the tips sticking out.
I cover mine with netting to stop birds pulling them out. That’s about it until spring – they should be fine during the cold with minimum input from you.
l Coinciding with the first frosts, you’ll need to get rid of your tender vegetables.
The leaves will already have turned black if it’s dipped near freezing – which it probably has if you live out in the sticks and inland.
People in built-up areas and near the coast benefit from the warming effect of concrete and the sea, both of which absorb heat during the day and let it out slowly during the night, keeping temperatures up.
Outdoor tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes are the first to give up the ghost. Dig up the plants and compost them if they are virus and blight free.
Burn any affected crops so they don’t reinfect the soil.
Leave bean and pea roots in the ground, so their nitrogen nodules can break down and enrich the soil for next year, but compost the tops.
Try not to leave open soil bare – it’s an open invitation to weeds and a luxurious litter tray for cats.
Sow a green manure seed mix now which can be dug in at the end of winter.
PLANT OF THE WEEK
VALIANTLY filling an ugly gap in the border is this 20-year-old Mexican climbing pelargonium.
It comes indoors during the winter, but hangs on throughout October to give a splash of colour.