Vegetable Gardening Jobs for Mid Autumn

Cloching

Crops to be newly cloched or which should have cloche-cover maintained over them are: beetroot, carrot, chives, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsley and radish (summer). Chives, lettuce and parsley will need to be cloched continuously until spring but the remainder should be eaten or lifted for storing or blanching by early winter.

Pruning and training

As the blackberry crop finishes towards the end of mid-autumn, the fruited canes can be cut off completely and the new shoots produced this year tied to the supporting wires to take their place. Most varieties are very prickly and tough gloves are a must for handling the stems. The best method of attack is to cut the old growth at ground level, cut the stems into sections and then unfasten them from the wires.

Unfasten the new growth also, lay the canes out separately on the ground and prune off all but eight to ten of the strongest and healthiest. Then tie them to the wires in one of the patterns illustrated.

Blanching

Towards the end of mid-autumn, you can begin to blanch the first few Batavian varieties of endive, remembering that they take about four to six weeks. Either cloche them, if this has not already been done, and cover the cloche completely with black plastic sheet, or tie the outside leaves up round the inner leaves. However, with the possibility of much colder weather suddenly occurring, the latter method is not so suitable. If the temperature docs drop, you can lift the plants with a. good ball of soil round the roots and put them into boxes of soil in the greenhouse or a shed; then cover them with black plastic, and blanch them there.

Lifting

when chicory is lifted to be stored for blanching later on in winter, keep those with a 2.5-5cm diameter crown, cut off the remains of the leaves and trim off the fibrous roots. Cut the main root to about 20cm and pack in moist peat.Now is the time to lift chicory so that it can be stored under cover and forced as required through the winter. At the end of mid-autumn, or thereabouts, dig up the chicory, keep the plants which have a crown of 2.5-5cm (1-2in) diameter and strong healthy roots, and discard the remainder. Trim off any remaining leaves and cut the roots back to leave a length of about 20cm (8in). Then pack them horizontally in layers in a box of moist sand or peat, in a dark place and a cool temperature; 2-7°C (35-45°F) is best, otherwise they may start into growth before you want them.

Compost heap

The last of the weeds, stems and leaves of crops and similar material will go on the heap during the next few weeks; some of it will probably rot, but the outermost layers will remain the same until next winter or early spring. The heap should now have some protection put above it to ward off heavy rain and snow.

Weeding and clearing

Mid-autumn will see the end of the marrows, squashes, peppers, runner (pole) and French (kidney) beans, the summer brassicas, peas and summer spinaches. The remainder of the root crops will be lifted except for one or two which can safely be left to over-winter in the ground. All these empty spaces will need raking and lightly forking to get rid of weeds and, in some cases, you can start the winter digging. After the grape harvest, the soil round the vines will certainly need attention to weed removal.

The asparagus bed will need clearing up before the winter; the shoots left to grow in summer should be cut down to ground level and composted and any weeds thoroughly cleared out. The stems of Jerusalem artichoke, too, can be cut right down, but leave an appreciable stump, otherwise it can be difficult to know exactly where to dig in winter when you want a few tubers for cooking.

Mulching

If the rhubarb was not mulched in early autumn, do it as soon as possible now. The asparagus can also be given a good mulch over the entire bed; because of its coastal origin, compost containing seaweed will be particularly beneficial. Vines can be mulched if this was not done in late winter or early spring, after the grapes have been picked. If you are one of the gardeners who needs to straw the soft fruit, this form of mulch can go on now, if it was not put on in late summer; put it on to weed-free soil if possible, though a thick covering will choke the majority of weeds.

Potting

Much of the work that needs to be done in mid-autumn is best got through in the first two weeks, which are often fine, mild and sunny, the last of the good weather. Potting herbs for winter use is one of the jobs to do at this time; marjoram, mint and basil can all be lifted, put into a proprietary potting compost in suitably sized pots and boxes, and taken into the greenhouse, cold frame, or the home to go on a sunny windowsill. The top growth of all should be cut down to leave stems about a quarter of their original length. In a moist compost and moderate temperature they should produce new growth slowly and steadily.

Cleaning the greenhouse

Giving the greenhouse a spring-clean, or rather an autumn-clean, is essential if the on-going intensive cultivation in it is to be satisfying and successful. Although it provides protection for plants and the growing conditions can be manipulated as you wish, it also provides an ideal environment for a variety of pests and diseases, which have ample food supplied to them continuously, warmth and shelter from predators. Their rate of increase can be astronomic if you do not keep a very watchful eye on them all the year round.

Some will over-winter as pupae or eggs, or go into aestivation as adults until the spring in cracks in woodwork, under staging and in any odd corner. It pays to scrub down the inside of the greenhouse thoroughly, including the framework, staging, roof and floor, if it is paved or concreted, and to wash the glazing. Cleaning the latter is particularly important at this time, as crops being grown through the winter in a greenhouse will need all the light possible. Often you need only use clear water, in copious quantities, to wash away or drown insects and fungal spores. However, if you had much trouble with one or other, or both, you could use a sterilizing solution of formalin – a 2% solution – remembering to wear gloves while using it and that the fumes can be irritating to eyes, nose and throat. All plants should be removed from the greenhouse, until the smell of the solution has completely disappeared. Pots, tools, seed trays and so on can be plunged into the solution for forty-eight hours, and not used again until free of odour.

An alternative to formalin is the use of sulphur candles which, when alight, give off fumes of sulphur dioxide. These effectively penetrate cracks and crevices difficult to reach when scrubbing. Fumigation is preferably done at night, and the greenhouse should be air-tight and empty of plants. The fumes from burning sulphur are also poisonous, so take suitable precautions for yourself, family and pets.

A dry sunny day will make the job easier; you can stand any plants that are to over-winter outdoors while you do it, and dry out the inside more thoroughly and quickly than in dull or wet weather. Any old tomato haulms, cucumber leaves, and melon, together with all roots, should be pulled up and dispatched to the compost heap; pots, tools, thermometers, watering cans, hoses and so on put outside, and water tanks emptied, before starting the cleaning.

Increasing perennial crops

As the cost of plants is rising, like everything else, propagating from your own plants, provided they are not virus-infected, will not only provide you with new free plants but will probably also result in better plants in the long run, as you can give them much more attention and care than the nurseryman, who is dealing with thousands at a time rather than half a dozen.

Division is a very simple method of increase, applicable in mid-autumn to globe artichokes, lemon balm, chives, horseradish, lovage, pot marjoram, mint and both the savories. When dividing, plants are dug up with as much root intact as possible and the crowns chopped through vertically with a trowel or spade, so that there are several pieces, with dormant buds and/or some top growth on each piece. Pieces from the edges of the crown will be the strongest – the central part will be the oldest and should be regarded as compost heap material.

This method applies to all the above, except the globe artichokes, which are not lifted. Instead, the suckers which they will have produced during the growing season at the base of the plant can be detached and planted; those which are about 25cm (10in) tall will establish best. Cut off the sucker from the parent with a little of the crown attached and some roots, and plant it as soon as possible.

Another method of propagation is by cuttings, in the case of the bush fruit: gooseberry and currants. Use hardwood cuttings of new shoots produced this season; the bark should have turned light brown almost to the tip. Blackcurrant cuttings should be about 23-30cm (9-12in) long, those of red and white currants about 38cm (15in) long, because they are grown with a ‘leg’, that is, with a short length of main stem or trunk. Blackcurrant bushes, on the other hand, consist of several shoots coming directly out of the ground which crop along their entire length. The cuttings are prepared and planted, and in approximately a year’s time will be ready for planting in their permanent positions. Remember that they should not be allowed to crop until the second summer after planting.

Gooseberry cuttings will be about 25cm (10in) long and are less easy to root, so take more than you need in case of failure. Also, the earlier in mid-autumn they are taken the better, while the soil and atmosphere are still warm.

Treating pests and diseases

By now you can virtually cease to be on the lookout for plant troubles, though slugs and birds will still be with you. There may be the odd spot of mildew here and there, patches of whitefly on the outdoor brassicas and, in a mild autumn, caterpillars can still be causing considerable trouble on cabbages. Since the brassicas will be in the ground is frozen. Marrows and squashes also can be stored, in a cool, dark shed or room for several weeks after cutting, preferably in a net hanging from the wall or ceiling.

Storing

You can start to lift the remainder of the root crops and put them into store: carrot, celeriac, parsnip, swedes and turnips, also Jerusalem artichokes, although the latter taste better if left in the ground and dug as required. The other root crops will also survive in the soil until late winter, but the difficulty with all these is getting at them when the ground is frozen. Marrows and squashes also can be stored, in a cool, dark shed or room for several weeks after cutting, preferably in a net hanging from the wall or ceiling.

Harvesting

Winter celery should be just about ready by the end of mid-autumn, although the flavour is said to be better when it has been frosted. Grapes grown for wine making should be picked in about the middle of this period, but a good deal depends on the season, the amount of sunshine there has been, and the type of wine that is to be made. Red cabbage, except for the variety Rugby Ball, should be lifted before the frosts really begin to bite.

More on the kitchen garden in mid autumn …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Vegetable Gardening Jobs for Mid Autumn

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: