The Biddenham Show is almost upon us and you have a few days left to decide if you will enter anything. I hope you will because the more who compete the more fun it is for the competitors and the more interesting it will be for the spectators who come to the Show. It has never been easier to enter. In response to popular demand the Show Guide has once again been put through your door and the number of examples of each type of fruit, flower or vegetable that you show has generally been reduced to three. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find something presentable in the garden as it has been a good growing year. Fruit, in particular, has done well. If the weather continues predominantly dry, keep things well watered. On-line booking is available but not compulsory and there is no late fee so you can make up your mind at the last moment. [»» click for Biddenham Show 2013 website]
Provided you have kept them watered your vegetables should still be producing well. Keep picking beans and courgettes to maintain productivity and beans will freeze well if you have got more than you can use at the moment. The naturalists are rightly bemoaning the decline in butterfly numbers but Cabbage Whites don’t seem to be following the trend and my cabbages are riddled with holes made by their caterpillars. I try to avoid it but I think a bit of spraying will be needed. A daily check and picking caterpillars off by hand is more than most of us can manage.
Soft fruit will be finished unless you have autumn fruiting raspberries ( well worth planting some this autumn if you haven’t) but apples, pears and plums will be ready for picking over the next two months. Pick carefully to avoid bruising and store unblemished apples and pears in a cool spot, either in plastic bags pricked for some aeration or wrapped in newspaper. Pears need to be picked while still hard and then checked frequently for ripening. Plums can be frozen, cooked gently or raw, and it is probably worth cooking and freezing some apples and pears as quality inevitably declines within weeks or months when they are stored fresh.
Many of us use professionals to treat our lawns but, if you do it yourself, now is the time for an autumn feed. Don’t use a spring formula even if you have got some left. Later on when the ground is soft again the lawn may well benefit from aeration ( spiking) and scarifying (scraping out dead and matted grass). Both are hard work and need to be done professionally or by hiring equipment unless you have quite a small area of grass when you can use a fork and grass rake. September is a good time for sowing a new area of grass while new turf is best left till October. Seed will need to be protected from birds and both methods need frequent watering.
This is also the time to be looking ahead to next year. Annuals for bedding and containers are often sown in early spring but many can be sown in the autumn and it is worth buying seeds now and checking the instructions. Autumn sown seeds will flower earlier but may benefit from some glass protection. Spring bulbs should be planted now although tulips are best left till November. Bulbs in containers can be planted in the old compost used for annuals during the summer. Winter flowering pansies in containers or open soil are great value for money. They get better and better as time goes on and mine kept going until July.
Once again, no gardens to visit this month in Bedfordshire under the National gardens Scheme. It’s not local, but a lovely garden I visited last October was the Picton Garden ( Old Court Nurseries) near Malvern ( www.autumnasters.co.uk). This is a specialist Aster (Michaelmas Daisy) nursery with a show garden which, although not big, is a blaze of colour at this time of year. Michaelmas Daisies are one of the best sources of colour in autumn and, if you want to grow them, making a choice is always easiest when you can see a plant in bloom. Mail order is available for spring delivery.
» click for Jeremy’s photos »»