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Gardening with Mick - October

There was definitely an autumnal chill this morning, the sun did not want to rise but, rise it did and here we are in October. Still plenty to do. October is an ideal month to start your digging, the soil should be moist and easier to dig. Don’t dig acres at a time do it in short stints perhaps twenty minutes and then a rest.

It is much cheaper than going to the gym and I guarantee you will find a muscle you had forgotten about. Rake up the fallen leaves and incorporate them into your dig, they are the finest compost of all and will quickly rot down. If there are any diseased leaves do not dig them in instead put them on the bonfire and incorporate them when they are ash.

Whilst you are digging it is a very good time to incorporate fertilisers. At this time of year they should be applied to the bottom of your dig whereas in spring you would ‘top dress’ i.e spread on the soil surface. It is therefore very useful to know what your fertiliser does and on all fertilisers there will be some letters eg. N P K. N is for nitrogen which is largely responsible for leaves on your plants. P is for phosphorus which helps root growth, flowers and fruit. K is for potassium which is for the overall good health of the plant. Therefore if a label states N7 P7 K7 it has an equal amount of all three and in fact is known as a general dressing. If the label states N20 P7 K7 it 20 parts of Nitrogen and will promote greenery on your plant. I think you can follow it from there. If the label states N7 P0 K0 it means the fertiliser only contains nitrogen.

A very good sauce of free potassium is the ash from a wood fire but it must be applied within a few days of burning. If you use animal manures the situation is that both pig and chicken manure should be left for at least 6 months as they can burn the crops. Cow and horse manure can be used immediately but are still best left a little while. I hope you are not reading this whilst having your breakfast.

If you are not sure of the make up of your soil, easy to use test kits are available from most garden centres. Despite having had a light frost I still have dahlias, Canterbury bells and gladioli in full bloom at the moment but most plants will have had their flowering finished for this year especially perennials.

Cut back all plants where you can, if not diseased place the cuttings on the compost heap and you will see your garden starting to look tidier straight away. If you have a shredder you can use the resultant mass as a mulch or again add it to the compost. October is an ideal time to plant both trees and other perennials. Start them off with either a good spread of bone meal or, if you are lucky, organic matter. Planting them whilst the soil is still warm will give them a good start. With older clumps of perennials it is time to lift and divide, this will not only increase your stock but make for stronger plants.

Always water well for a few days. Once the frosts have blackened the leaves on the dahlias the tubers should be lifted, cleaned and stored in a frost free environment. If you have some tender perennials now is the time to lift them and store them in a frost free environment or in the case of those that are too big to lift cover them for protection against the frost and cold winds. Speaking of winds, if you have any tall shrubs they should be pruned back now to prevent wind rock. If they are subject to severe movement by wind they can lose the roots and die. If your hedge needs trimming it should be the last occasion for this year, after trimming make sure you store your cutter clean and slightly oiled to take it through to next season.

It is also a good time to get a service on, not only hedge trimmers but any tool you will not need again until next year. If you have not planted all your bulbs yet, now is your last chance. You should be picking the last of your runner beans and lifting the last of your main crop potatoes. Carrots and beetroot should be still available to harvest.

My grandad used to store root crops in a clamp. He would place the vegetables in a pile on the earth being careful not to include any that are damaged, cover the pile with straw and then cover the straw with earth. This used to keep his root crops through the whole winter.

October is the last month for planting spring cabbages. Whilst you are in the brassica section of your garden remove any withered or yellow leaves from your growing crop as they promote disease.

If you did not get your greenhouse cleaned in September do it now as you will want to put over wintering plants in there.

October 30th is the end of British summer time so, clocks back and an extra hour in bed (unless you are on nights) I think that is it for October so I will grab a couple of rich tea biscuits make myself a mug of cocoa and wish you happy gardening.



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