October and autumn has come to the vegetable garden. There are still some crops to harvest but the main tasks for this month are tidying and preparing for the winter ahead. However, even in the smallest vegetable garden there are still things you can do to prepare for next spring and also to ensure that you have some fresh homegrown vegetables to see you through the winter months. So before you venture outside take a moment to check this short reminder of some of the essential things to be doing in the vegetable garden during October.
Keep harvesting root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and beetroot. There may still be a few runner beans to harvest if the weather has stayed warm. Pick these but leave a few pods to ripen so that you can save the seed for next year. Those crops you have harvested and stored such as potatoes will need checking regularly and any rotting ones removed. Any tender crops such as tomatoes, marrows and courgettes will also need to be gathered before the weather turns cold. Those beds that have been cleared can be forked over. Think about sowing a green manure such as winter rye in dormant beds to be dug into the ground next spring. Alternatively dig in some well rotted manure.
There are crops you can plant out at this time of year. Japanese onion sets and garlic can be planted now. Also sow seeds of broad beans and hardy varieties of peas. Earth up leeks to cover their stems and keep them white. You might also get away with sowing winter lettuce, perslane and winter radish if the weather is warm.
If you grow fruit, continue to harvest autumn fruit such as pears and apples. Once raspberries and blackberries have finished fruiting, cut back the canes to the base of the plant and tie in new shoots. Now is also a good time to plant new fruit trees and bushes. It is also the time to plant rhubarb crowns. Tidy up the strawberry bed by cutting back any dead leaves and removing runners and any weeds.
Finally, dig up a few roots of mint and pot up in garden planters. Bring them undercover in either a cold greenhouse, a porch or conservatory and you will have a ready supply through the winter. You can do the same with other herbs such as parsley, basil and sweet bay.
Jo Poultney, I am a RHS qualified gardener who has recently set up a business selling garden planters and garden related gifts via a website.