The Kitchen Garden in Mid Autumn

Mid-Autumn

From now until next spring, there will be no really warm weather; the temperature will go down gradually but steadily and only crops which are really hardy will survive outdoors. Even some of these will need protection in the worst weather, but you will be relying mainly on the brassicas and roots for your vegetables in winter. The spinaches, unprotected, will provide pickings until late autumn and from early spring, but with cloches you can get more in early and late winter, by prolonging the first growth period, and bringing on the second one early.

It is not a good time to sow seed for new crops; there are some that could be tried, such as lettuce, spinach, peas and broad beans. However, autumn is so far advanced by this time that it will be difficult to get these germinated, let alone well enough established by winter to survive cold weather, even with the help of cloches. Broad beans are generally sown in late autumn if they are to over-winter, and sowing towards the end of mid-autumn does not produce much gain. In many years, the crop from the late autumn sowing is itself very little earlier than that sown in early spring.

Most of your work will consist of lifting the remaining root vegetables for store, clearing ground, and generally tidying up after the confusion and rush of harvesting. Cutting down, pruning, dividing and weeding, and giving the greenhouse a thorough clean out, are some of the mid-autumn jobs; those that occupied most of the summer work, such as feeding, watering, training and staking, spraying and compost heap making, will be virtually unnecessary.

Some soil preparation can be done for planting soft fruit including vines, in late autumn, and also some basic digging, in certain circumstances, though the large part of this can be done in late autumn and early winter.

It is possible to pick fresh leaves from some of the herbs for much of the winter, either with the help of cloche protection outdoors, or by lifting some, potting them and putting them in the greenhouse. It is a good time to divide some of the hardy herbs as well, if they are past their best.

Jobs to do

Preparing the soil for outdoor planting

As the next season, late autumn, is the best time to plant vines outdoors, preparation of the soil towards the end of mid-autumn is advisable to give it time to absorb any organic matter and fertilizers you may think it necessary to add. For the best crops of grapes, whether they are for dessert or wine, choose a sheltered position facing south, gently sloping, and with a well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. Although vines need good drainage at the roots, and warmth in autumn, they are much hardier than is generally realized and will survive frost without difficulty. Choosing varieties which mature early and quickly is also important.

Since the vines are going to be cropping for twenty years and more, the soil should be dug two spits deep, a little manure or compost mixed into the bottom of the second spit, and the soil returned. It does not need to be particularly fertile, but if it is extremely gravelly, shingly or sandy, some rotted compost or farm manure should also be mixed into the top spit. Total rate of application can be about 4.5kg per sq m (10lb per sq yd). If this is not available, bonemeal, a slow acting organic fertilizer, can be mixed in instead, at (90g per sq m (3oz per sq yd). When preparing the soil, dig out each planting site so that it is about 60cm (24in) square.

In all gardens but those where winter is severe, planting in mid-autumn will ensure a good long growing period and produce the biggest cloves. You will get best growth if the position is not in a frost hollow and gets a reasonable amount of sun and if the soil is medium to light in texture. At the beginning of mid-autumn, single dig the site and mix in a moderate amount of rotted organic matter.

You can also prepare the soil now for planting the bush and cane fruits in late autumn, the traditional time for such planting. Since all make heavy demands on the soil’s food and moisture content throughout their lives, it is important to ensure that the soil is in good heart to start with, otherwise none will do really well, however much you add manure, food and water later. Currants will crop for at least twenty years, the cane fruit for about fifteen, so preparation should not be skimped.

preparation for planting redcurrants is best done in mid-autumn if possibleCurrants do well on the heavier, moister soils with a slightly acid pH; a position sheltered from wind is important, otherwise they will suffer from ‘run-off’ — at flowering time, pollinating insects will not work the blossom because of wind, and the clusters of flowers will wither without setting. If a windy place is unavoidable, supply some kind of protection in spring, even if only temporary.

Single dig the entire area; bushes will need a spacing at least 1.5m (60in) each way, and the root system, though shallow, will spread underground at least the width of the top growth above ground. Each bush should produce 4.5-5.5kg (10-12lb) of fruit in a single cropping season though in the first few, the crop will only be in the region of 1.5-3kg (3-61b) per bush.

Mix in a good dressing of rotted garden compost or manure; the rate should be about one garden barrowload per 1.7 sq m (2sq yd); it can be less on heavy soil and should be a little more on sandy ones. This may sound rather a lot, but the bushes will be cropping for many years and need a really good start.

While the site is being dug, make sure you get up all the weeds, including their roots; trying to eradicate bindweed, ground elder, couch grass and horsetail from a black or redcurrant planting, once the bushes are established, is not possible. Pieces of root always remain in the soil, twined in the roots of the bushes, and if you try to spray the top growth with a translocated hormone weedkiller, harming the bushes as well is unavoidable. If the site is badly weed infested, it is worth waiting until the following early autumn, and clearing it at intervals until it is thoroughly weed-free, otherwise you will have endless trouble.

For cane fruit – raspberry, loganberry and blackberry -the soil should be prepared in much the same way. Raspberries are a little more particular about the type of soil, and if you have a really heavy soil or a very sandy, shallow one, they will not do well. Alkaline soil should also be avoided; a slightly acid one is best. Loganberries and blackberries are not so fussy and will accommodate themselves to most conditions. As with currants, sun and shelter from wind will give the best and most regular crops for all three. The fruiting laterals of raspberries in particular are liable to be ‘blown out’, ie., damaged by wind so badly that they break off.

If you have the space, avoid planting any of these in soil which has recently been down to cane fruits, as there is the possibility that there may be soil-living eelworms present, which carry virus diseases common to cane fruits. Once plants are infected there is no cure; crops will become light and poor and plants will be stunted and weak and should be lifted and destroyed.

loganberries are crop not grown as much as they should be be - they have a delicious and distinctive flavour and crop well every yearSingle dig the soil, and break up the bottom of the trench or hole with a fork, adding organic matter at the same time. If the soil is very heavy, with a clay subsoil, it is advisable to dig deeper, to two spades’ depth, and then fork up the lowest layer. Turn the soil, mixing it with more rotted garden compost, manure or leafmould and ensure that the quantity added is in the region of 12 litres (2-1/2gal) per plant.

The cane fruits are planted in rows; raspberries will produce between 0.24 and 0.45kg (1/2 and 1lb) of fruit per 30cm (12in) of row and blackberries about 2.5-5kg (5-10lb) per plant. Loganberries crop slightly more heavily. About a week before planting, mix some bonemeal with the soil, about 21g per 90cm (3/4oz per 36in) run of row.

Supporting

Vines are planted at spacings of 120-150cm (48-60in) between plants, and 150cm (60in) between rows. They will need a support system of wires and posts, and this can be put in after the soil has been prepared. Wooden posts of chestnut or oak, 2.1m (84in) long, treated with preservative on the lowest 60cm (24in), should be driven into the soil at each planting site so that there is about 1.5-1.8m (60-72in) left above ground. Wires of 2.5mm (1/12in) gauge are run horizontally from post to post, the lowest 38cm (15in) above the ground, the next 75cm (30in) above the ground, and third 120cm (48in) above it. A single strand should be strung along the tops of the posts, for netting support later. Make sure that the wires are really firmly and rigidly attached to the posts, as the shoots and fruit will be a considerable weight, and will have to present a large surface area to possibly gale force winds.

For raspberries, perhaps the simplest method is to use a system of strong posts at each end of the row and spaced along it at about 2.4m (96in) intervals. Attached to these are three single horizontal wires, spaced 45cm (18in) apart, the first being 45cm (18in) above the ground. Posts should be similar to and erected in the same way as those for the vines, though only 45cm (18in) need be driven into the ground. There should then be 1.8m (72in) projecting above it. Raspberries are spaced 45cm (18in) apart with 1.5m (60in) between rows, so you can either prepare separate sites or dig out a trench about 60cm (24in) wide.

Blackberries and loganberries can develop strong, fast growing shoots 2.4m ((96in) and more long, so need very sturdy supports and plenty of space. Concrete posts are frequently used by commercial growers; these have the advantage of being permanent and needing no attention, whereas wooden ones need preservative treatment and, even so, may decay. Cast iron 2.5cm (1in) piping can sometimes be obtained and is effective, though rather grim looking. Wires will have to be wound round them and tied to them.

Spacing between plants will need to be about 1.2-3.6m (48-144in), depending on the vigour of the variety and the amount of room it needs. If you plant in rows, allow 1.8m (72in) between them. The training system of wires and posts is similar to that for raspberries but attach the wires so that they are 30cm (12in) apart, the first one 60cm (24in) above the soil, and use four rather than three.

Planting

The only crop you need put in at this time is garlic. If you have a garden which is, in most winters, only moderately cold, you can get a good start with garlic by planting it now, especially in mild, sunny autumns. The cloves will root and produce shoots in a few weeks, but will then stand still until spring, surviving all but the severest weather. A well drained soil ensures the best survival rate. About a week before planting, mix some bonemeal with the soil, about 21g per 90cm (3/4oz per 36in) run of row.

You can use the grocer’s bulbs; choose the ones with the biggest individual cloves. Separate the cloves, taking the outside ones only, and plant them so that there is a 2.5cm (1in) depth of soil over them. They may already have started to sprout – the green tip should be pointing upwards when planted. Allow 15cm (6in) between each clove and 30cm (12in) between rows. Sometimes cloves are very large, about 2.5cm (1in) in diameter, and such specimens will need to be planted deeper, with 5cm (2in) of soil above them.

Transplanting

There may be a little transplanting to do now, depending on your method of growing some crops; Japanese onions and spring cabbage can be moved into their permanent sites from seed-beds. If you have been short of space, you will have had to use a seed-bed and wait until the chosen sites become free. These two vegetables should be moved as early in mid-autumn as possible, with the usual precautions about moist soil and planting the best specimens.

The Japanese onions should be spaced about 13cm (5in) apart. Remember that the miniature bulb which will already have formed should be sat on the surface of the soil and the roots put into a hole so that they go straight down.

Some gardeners transplant lettuce at this time of the year as well, from a seed-bed. This does no harm when the winter months follow, but transplanting lettuce in spring frequently leads to bolting; the check produced by lifting, together with the rising temperature and increasing day length all encourage the plants to run to seed.

Thinning

If you sowed a few crops in early autumn, they are likely to be at the stage of needing the first thinning by now, perhaps the second, if sown early in warm, moist weather. They include: borage, cabbage, endive, lettuce, lovage, onion (Japanese and ordinary), radish (summer and winter), savory and turnip. Turnips grown for tops only are thinned in two stages, first to 5cm (2in) apart, and then to 15cm (6in).

More Vegetable Gardening Jobs for Mid Autumn …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , | Comments Off on The Kitchen Garden in Mid Autumn

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