October gardening tips
Once your veggie patch is clear, dig it over and incorporate compost. Dig over your kitchen garden as soon as possible so the soil can be broken down by the winter elements. This is especially important on heavy clay soils. If you are short of compost, it is better to treat a small area properly than spread it too thinly over a larger area.
Leave pea and bean plant roots in the ground. Cut off the stems for the compost heap but leave the roots in the ground - they return valuable nitrogen to the soil, acting as a natural fertiliser. In your crop rotation plan, plant leafy crops such as brassicas after beans or peas, as they have a high demand for nitrogen. (Clever!!)
Cut down jerusalem artichokes - The stems will be dying back now so cut them back to ground level. Make sure you harvest the tubers thoroughly as any left in the ground will grow into a plant next year and before you know it you will have a Jerusalem artichoke jungle!
Harvest everything left in the kitchen garden. If your runner beans are too stringy to eat, compost them or leave on the plant until brown for next year's seeds. Dig up root crops (apart from parsnips which taste better after a frost) including carrots, beetroot and potatoes. Dry thoroughly before storing in boxes or paper sacks; remember to evict any diseased or rotten tubers or they will spoil the rest of your crop.
Pumpkins and squashes should be left in the sun, garage or greenhouse for a few days to harden the skin and dry them off before storing in a cool, dark place.
Plant crops such as winter lettuces, autumn onion sets, spring cabbages and, in mild areas, overwintering broad beans and garlic. Cover the trenches with fleece or cloches for insulation and net for protection from birds.
Remove yellow leaves from brassicas. Remove any tatty yellow leaves from Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli as they perform no useful function and merely encourage disease.
Herbs - pot up mint, parsley and chives for the winter. Lift a clump, remove any yellow leaves, divide and plant into smallish pots using multi-purpose compost. Stand on a sunny windowsill, water well and wait for your winter crop to flourish.
Harvest any remaining raspberries, apples and pears. If high winds are forecast, pick your crop straight away - birds will not mind bruised fruit on the ground, but it will not keep. Leave quinces until the middle of the month and store for a fortnight before using them... delicious baked slowly with wine and cinnamon or made into quince jelly to savour with real cheese!
Blackberry and apple pie must be one of Britain's greatest treats - now is the time to make it! Apple jelly is easy to make too and a great way of using an apple glut. Make apple and mint or apple and sage jelly for a delicious supply to last through the winter.
Plant fruit trees and new strawberries; clear out old plants and weeds, position the newcomers a foot apart in rows wide enough apart to walk between, make sure the crowns just show above the soil, firm them in well and water regularly if dry.
Dig up and split old rhubarb crowns, replanting with a good dollop of manure under each plant.