This Month in the Garden – October 2013

5X4A1712elThe Biddenham Show was a great success and the weather was a lot better than we thought it might be. It was very encouraging to see how many people entered for the horticultural classes and the marquee looked really attractive. Members of the Gardeners’ Association Committee were kept busy early on Sunday morning rearranging the exhibits and putting out more tables to make room as the entries kept coming in.  Thank you to everyone who had a go. The most popular class was for standard tomatoes with eleven entries. The class was won by the Bulletin Editor and this entry also won the cup for the best vegetable exhibit. Dhushi Vedavanam swept the board, winning five trophies.

We can look forward to gathering winter vegetables such as brassicas, leeks and parsnip but October will see the end of harvest for most things. This has been a good year for fruit and you may well still have apples and pears that should be picked carefully and stored, wrapped in newspaper or in plastic bags tied but with holes pierced in them. Keep checking pears for ripening. They have to be picked while still hard and then checked for colour change and slight softness. Outdoor tomatoes should be picked and brought inside but those under glass may well keep ripening until November. Green tomatoes brought indoors are likely to ripen and there is always the fun of making tomatoes chutney with green fruit.

The ornamental garden will begin to run down for the winter. Raise the mower blade a notch for the last few lawn cuts and then remember to get the mower serviced fairly early in the winter before everyone else panics to get it done in the spring. It’s a good idea to tidy the flower border but don’t cut everything back. Grasses and dead seed heads can look lovely in frost and the birds will enjoy the seeds. Leave the cutting back until February.

October is the time recommended for sowing sweet peas to get the earliest flowers although that does mean looking after the young plants during the winter. I shall be hoping for more success with sweet peas next year as, this year,  I had disappointing germination rates with both my October and January sowings. Don’t forget to bring in geraniums, fuschias ( if not hardy) and other plants susceptible to frost damage.

Ponds need attention at this time of year. Cut down the plants before the foliage dies down during the winter so that you stop rotting matter going into the water. Clear out blanket weed and any weeds that have got into the planting baskets. You may also need to clear some plants out if they are spreading too much. Crystal clear water depends upon plants covering at least a third of the water surface but too dense planting means you loose sight of the water and the opportunity for reflections. When you have finished tidying, the pond should be netted to keep falling leaves out.

Gardening isn’t just about growing things. Most gardens need features such as patios, paths and pergolas, walls and, fencing, greenhouses and sheds. This is a good time to review the layout of the garden to see if there are structural improvements or repairs to be made and plan to do them during the winter months. If the work requires the use of concrete try to avoid the coldest periods or, at least, cover newly laid concrete with sacking or something similar to keep frost out. If you haven’t got a couple of compost bins now is the time to be doing something about it.

PS. If you have still got the September issue of the Bulletin you will see the picture that went with my article shows how I support runner beans using 8 foot bamboo canes; they are fixed together along the horizontal cane with thin wire. I have now enjoyed eating most of the sweet corn shown in the foreground of the picture! Corn cobs need to be eaten as soon as possible after picking as they soon become starchy. We have also frozen some because cobs left on the plant soon lose their freshness.

Jeremy Arthern


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