October is definitely the time that things start to slow down for us in the market garden, and although there is still plenty to do, especially up until mid October, there is a feeling of less urgency and we become more reflective on the year gone by. The final big jobs in the garden in October are taking out all of the tunnel summer crops and planting up with winter salads, herbs (parsley, coriander and chervil), spring onions and sugarsnap peas, as well as some leafy greens like perpetual spinach and chard. Also, any remaining bare soil outside is sown to cereal rye to help protect it from the winter weather. The roots of the rye will help to stabilise the soil, but also form associations with some of the soil life and in doing so will maintain and improve the health of the soil. Throughout September we sowed a more diverse range of green manures—including phacelia, oats, fenugreek, clover, trefoil, buckwheat and linseed, but it is now too late for most of these to germinate and establish, so cereal rye is really the only option.
If you haven’t already done so then it’s time to bring in any squash that you have out in the garden. These will have ripened through the summer and got the last of the summers sun to ripen them more through September. The best way to make sure that your squash last through the winter is to make sure they are properly cured before storing them. Some varieties also last longer than others—make sure you eat the onion squash (Uchiki kuri types) first as these tend not to store quite as long as something like a Crown Prince. Harvest the squash once the stem has gone light brown—this indicates that it is ripe. Cut the squash carefully and with as much of the stem as possible—it is important to be gentle with the squash at this stage, as any damage now can leave the squash open for rotting. The next step is to bring the squash into a warm, airy room to help harden the skin, meaning that it can then be stored for longer through the winter. Make sure you leave some space around each squash. The curing allows water to evaporate out of the squash, concentrating its flavour and sweetness as well as hardening the skin which protects the squash from damage and moulds through storage. The key to good curing is keeping the squash in a warm place for about 10 days—ideally around 20 degrees and a fairly high humidity of around 80 percent. Once they are cured the squash can be stored in cooler conditions—around 10 degrees with lower relative humidity. Keep checking the squash every couple of weeks once they are stored and compost any that have rotted.
Now, it’s time to start planning for next year! Hopefully you have made plenty of notes through the year on timings of sowings, plantings and harvests, and using these notes you can figure out how to get the most out of the garden by fitting in quick crops before and after slower growing crops.
WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: Spring onions (for polytunnel/glasshouse), broad beans, garlic, peas, sugarsnaps and peashoots (all for overwintering in the polytunnel/glasshouse), mustards, rocket, leaf radish (last chance for sowing these for overwintering in polytunnel/glasshouse)
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
OUTSIDE: overwintering spring onions (if not before), direct broad beans and garlic.
INSIDE: overwintering salad leaves, coriander, chervil, chard, perpetual spinach, parsley, spring onions, overwintering peas.
OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH: continue mulching beds for the winter, especially on beds that you didnt get round to sowing green manures. Make a start on your winter job list before it starts getting too wet and cold!