Another growing season has come to an end but the work in the garden is far from finished! Indeed, I often tell people that Autumn marks the beginning of the gardening year. We will certainly be busy over the next few weeks here at the Community Garden. Below I put together a few Autumn gardening tips for our home gardeners here in Tayport.
Lots of various tasks need to be completed as part of the process of ‘putting the garden to bed’. Firstly, all of the remaining tender summer crops need to be harvested and either used up or stored in a frost free place. This would include potatoes, beans, pumpkins and squashes. The tender crops in greenhouses or polytunnels also need cleared out and used. Any tomatoes which haven’t quite ripened yet can be kept in a container or box alongside some ripe bananas is their skins as these give off Ethylene which acts as a ripening hormone, or one can make green tomato chutney.
The outdoor crops which can still be harvested over the winter can either be left in the ground or lifted and stored, for example beetroot should be placed in trays of damp sand and kept in a frost-free and rodent-free place. Leeks can be lifted and lined off in a trench, carrots used to be stored in earthen clamps for winter storage. If you can get hold of some straw it’s useful to cover veg that is left in the ground, this makes it easier to harvest them if there has been hard frosts as the straw insulates the ground.
Although at the time of writing this the opportunity for sowing a green manure catch crop is closing there is still time to have a go, simply rake over your empty veg plots and sow a winter hardy variety such as Grazing Rye and cover with some horticultural fleece. This helps to lock plant nutrients in the soil and prevents the winter rains from leaching them away.
Another tip for looking after the soil is to apply a thick mulch of compost either home- made or brought in and cover this with old cardboard boxes weighted down with stones etc. The soggy cardboard can either go in the compost in the Spring or put in the bottom of the pea and bean trenches.
As well as preparing the veg garden for winter, there’s some planting can be done for next year. Garlic cloves and Autumn onion sets can be planted into prepared plots. Broad beans can either be sown directly or in 9cc pots in the greenhouse, porch or a sunny window sill. It’s also a good time to plant perennial crops like rhubarb, globe artichokes and comfrey crowns for the compost heap. The flower beds also need attention at this time, shrubs can be pruned, perennials cut back, lifted and divided and a thick mulch applied.
Also, during the coming dark, cold days of winter it’s a great time to keep warm and cosy with the seed catalogues and plan for the next growing season!