Vegetables in October

October has come and the pressure is off. There is still plenty to do in the market garden, but there is less than before, or maybe there is more time to do it. Whichever way round you look at it, things are a little calmer than they were through the summer months. However, there are a few last things that need to be done before the days get too short. The winter salads and other crops being planted in the polytunnels need to be in the ground this month, to give them enough time to put their roots down and put on some growth before first harvests in November. There are also the last few sowings of spring onions and sugarsnap peas that will be sown this month for polytunnel growing, and then the garlic will be planted ideally at the end of the month or in November.
Meanwhile, outside the main focus is making sure that any bare ground is sown with green manures to maximise the living roots in the soil and protect it through the winter. There is not a great selection of green manures that will germinate at this time of year, and we have already undersown a lot of crops, so there are just a few beds that are still bare at this time of the year as we finish harvesting certain crops. The main plants to sow at this time of year are just the cereals like oats and rye, which will put on good growth through the autumn and get their roots down well. You might get away with adding some vetch to the mix too, and you could also consider putting in some winter hardy peas and broad beans or field beans – which will double up as a crop in the spring by being able to harvest the tips for salads.
We are still harvesting plenty of produce from the garden, with corn still just about going, plus the squash (although sadly ours didn’t do well this year – they suffered when we planted them into ground that had a lot of organic matter in from a previous green manure which caused some nutrient lock up, so it was a bit late by the time they got going). We have salad turnips, winter radish, some fennel, lots of brassicas and other greens, plenty of chicory and other salads too. The squash will need harvesting before the frosts come, and are best cured to harden their skins and concentrate the flavours. After a couple of weeks in a warm place they can then be stored somewhere cooler through the winter.
This time of year is a really good time to reflect on successes and failures in the garden whilst it is still relatively fresh in your mind. These thoughts can then be used to plan out the garden for next year, and adapt what you grow, when to sow it and how much to sow. Think about whether any particular beds were bare for a period of time that would allow another crop to be planted and harvested and plan this in for next year.

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)


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—if there are any repairs to tools or garden infrastructure that need to be done, now is a good time to do it. Don’t be tempted to “tidy” the garden too much just yet—there is plenty of food for birds and insects in the form of weed seed heads, so let them be for a while longer.