When the evenings start drawing in it’s the end of the gardening season for me. At least in theory. In practice there’s still work to be done but fortunately the beginning of October has been so warm that it’s been no hardship to get out into the garden to do it. Mostly I’ve been cropping late vegetables and fruit and generally tidying up.
Cropping in October
Yesterday I picked the rest of the plums, so my total for the year is 7.5 kg, a lot better than last year when I got one single plum! I’m also still harvesting blueberries. They did really well this year, at least in part due to covering them with fleece as they ripened. I also picked the last of the runner beans the other day, which was a relief since I was getting sick of them! I still have lots of vegetables in the ground, which I’ll harvest as I need them – carrots, parsnips, artichokes and swedes – and the green vegetables (sprouts, kale, chard and sprouting broccoli) are ready to pick. They’re still sitting under insect netting which will keep the pigeons off them, although I may replace this with butterfly netting for the winter as it’s less susceptible to wind and snow.
The courgettes were looking a little sad so I pulled them up. I’m always amazed at how few roots a courgette has considering what big plants they are. My outdoor tomatoes eventually produced actual tomatoes but they also got blight so half my crop was inedible. (This was a supposedly blight-resistant variety.) As a result, this is the last year I’ll be trying to grow tomatoes. I also pulled up the cucumbers which I was growing in my cold frame. I could probably have kept them going for another couple of weeks but I already have a fridge-full of cucumbers and found loads more I hadn’t noticed when I pulled up the plants.
With all these vegetable removed my veg garden is looking a little bare but since it’s been warm I may sow some phacelia as green manure and hope it bulks up before the winter. An earlier sowing is looking quite lush.
The Flower garden
Most flowers are long since over but a few are still soldiering on. The dahlias, a surprise success for 2016, are flowering quite prolifically at the moment so I’m going to try to dry off some of the tubers for next year. The cosmos was also flowering, as were the sweet-peas, but they got hammered in the recent winds so I had to cut them down. There are still interesting flowers appearing in my mystery bee mix. The dwarf marigolds gave up the ghost a few weeks ago but I left the plants to dry off and have collected seed for next year. A couple of rockery plants (Erigeron karvinskianus and Geranium ‘Orkney Cherry’) are still flowering prolifically, as is a mystery plant I got some years ago from a plant sale in Tayport. It’s clearly a type of Oxalis. If anyone knows what variety this is, please let me know! (The flowers shown above are, left to right, mystery Oxalis, Ammi visnaga, some sort of annual Lavatera and Erigeron/Geranium.)
I’ve always been a bit tentative about pruning, with the result that some shrubs have got out of hand, so this year I’ve tackled the worst offenders. One Philadelphus, which was too tall, has been cut down to the ground. In principle only the oldest stems should be cut out but this had never been done. So I’m not sure if it will recover or not. It wasn’t the best of plants but the prospect of digging out the root was a bit daunting! I took my pruning saw (a new acquisition so I’ve been a bit gung-ho with it) to another variety of Philadelphus and a variegated Weigela but stopped short of cutting the plants to the ground. However, they now look a little less tangled and allow more light (and hopefully rain) into the bed below where I’m hoping to plant another David Austin rose. Or I may just move a couple of smaller shrubs into the space (a sulking Hydrangea and a pot-bound Hebe). This is something I’ll be doing later this month if we ever get any rain since, at the moment, the ground is very dry.
Jobs to do in October
The first thing I’ll be doing is ordering and planting garlic for next year. I always buy from the Really Garlicy Company, normally ‘Castano’ but this year they’re also selling ‘Doocot’ so I may give that a go. They’re going in the bed I’ve just cleared of outdoor tomatoes which my husband has been watering with onion water. In principle this is supposed to fool the causative agent of white rot into growing but then it dies due to lack of actual onions (or other alliums). I have my doubts but it’s worth a bash.
The other big job is to cut down an ailing Viburnum tinus hedge. I did this to a separate section of the same hedge last year and it’s recovered well. Another hedge (Amelanchier canadensis) also needs to be cut down with a view to replacing it with a hedge of small fruit trees. This is a bit more ambitious and probably won’t be done until next year.
Left-over jobs from September include taking root cuttings of poppies and picking the tarragon to make tarragon vinegar.
I’m particularly looking forward to harvesting my first home-grown apples. I planted two apple trees in late 2014 so was surprised to get so many apples only two years later. Most were taken off at an early stage since the tree is still small, but those that were left have bulked up nicely. This variety is ‘Limelight’ from Chris Bower. Unfortunately, its companion tree ‘Idared’, planted at the same time, has yet to flower which is disappointing. But I’m pleased with ‘Limelight’ and am looking forward to tasting them. With so few apples (5), I won’t, however, be donating them to the Fruit Fest for juicing or selling! But they won’t be missed since over 100 kg of apples have already been picked, with more waiting to be collected from all over Tayport. So there will be no shortage of apples. For more information about apple collections see here. And do make sure the Fruit Fest is in your diary. Saturday 15th October from 11 am to 4 pm in the Tayport Burgh Chambers garden. Another apple related activity is the recording of orchards in NE Fife (5 or more trees), so if you qualify and would be willing to have your orchard surveyed, contact Kaska. She is also looking for volnteer surveyors. You can find more details in her post here.
My next ‘month in my garden’ blog will be looking back at the harvest for 2016. I’ve signed up to the Grow at Home Scheme so have been weighing my produce and am already staggered by the amount my plot has produced. My other blog, ‘seasonal cooking’, will focus on apples and pears, so look out for that around the time of the Fruit Fest.