Allotment Garden Newsletter



 October 2020


Dear Friend

I hope this finds you and your family well and safe in these difficult times. I know many of my subscribers are, like me, older and more at risk from the virus although nobody is totally safe.

I also know that we're tired of this situation and the temptation is to just go back to normal but hang on in there. Keep on being careful, follow the rules because social distancing and hygiene are the best defence. There is light at the end of this tunnel and we've just got to keep calm and carry on for a bit longer.

Autumn is here

By both the calendar and weather, the season has turned and autumn is here. The autumn equinox on the 22nd September marked the point where the nights become longer than the days and Michaelmas on the 29th September is traditionally the last day of the harvest season

The clocks go back at the end of this month so we can look forward to it getting light an hour earlier. Not so good for those who like to get a bit of gardening done after work, though. Or, those like me, who aren't morning persons. Still, the workload in the garden is easing off now.


We've been busy with our harvest: sorting, preparing and storing it to provide for winter. Blanching for the freezer and the rich scents of vinegar and spices in the kitchen as Val cooks up batches of chutney.

Last month I mentioned our book How to Store Your Home Grown Produce. We had a lot of orders and seeing we were running out, placed a stock order with the publisher only to be told they'd sold out! Apparently thinking ahead is not in their skill set.

It's now due to arrive in a couple of weeks – I'll let you know when stocks arrive. I don't like taking pre-orders in case something goes wrong and I let you down.


Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves

We have stock of Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves. Chutneys are a great way to preserve some of your surplus. If I may, I'll quote from the book.

The scope of chutneys is endless and the combinations and permutations can be varied according to personal taste and the ingredients available. They can be sweet, sour, hot or mild and the range of ingredients is almost unlimited as well. They can be made from fruits or vegetables, or a mixture of the two.

Better still, because the ingredients are going to be chopped, cooked, mixed with spices, vinegar and other ingredients and often reduced to a smooth pulp, you don't have to be fussy about the quality of the fruits and vegetables. Misshapen or damaged fruits can be used.

They're good for using up end of season produce as well. Windfall apples, green tomatoes and the last of the rhubarb can all be converted into an appetising chutney. To the base ingredients you add various spices and other fruits like raisins, sultanas, dates and vegetables such as onion and garlic for the flavour. The vinegars, sugar and salt not only add flavour but also act as the preservative.

Some Growing Tips

Feeding Soil with Roots

It won't be long until the frosts start and kill off the tender plants like like runners and French beans. Instead of digging up their roots, just snip off the stems at ground level.

The foliage can go to the compost heap but leave the roots to decompose in the ground, feeding the soil ecology.

Having said that, don't leave roots from brassicas in the ground if you've club root on your plot.



If you've grown pumpkins, don't be in too much of a hurry to eat them. Not only will they store well in a cool, dark, airy place but they improve in flavour and nutritional value for being kept like that for a month or so.

Winter Lettuce

There are quite a few salad leaves and lettuce you can grow, if slowly, through the winter. It's surprising, we think of lettuce as something for a hot summer's day but some varieties like Arctic King, Marvel of Four Seasons and Lambs Lettuce (Corn Salad) are very hardy. I've had luck with the humble Little Gem at this time of year.

If you start them in a seed tray or modules you can plant out in the greenhouse border or polytunnel as it becomes vacant. No greenhouse? Don't worry, a coldframe or even a cloche should provide enough protection.


Clearing Autumn Leaves

The leaves are turning and starting to fall already. Useful as they are when made into leafmould, clearing them up can be painful. One tool I've had for many years is a pair of big hands.

They're so useful for leaves, grass clippings and woodchips. Like many brilliant ideas, really simple. You don't need them often but when you do, they save hours.

Available from Harrod Horticultural


Leafmould from my Book

I realised I've never actually covered making leafmould on the web site so a quote from my book Vegetable Growing Month by Month

Just £8.99 with FREE P&P plus £6.00 Worth of FREE SEEDS (UK ONLY)



Leafmould has negligible nutritional value but is useful as it adds humus and it can be used as an ingredient in potting composts. Making leafmould is very easy.

First collect autumn leaves. Sometimes road sweepers can be persuaded to donate a load to you.

Next construct a cage from wire netting. This can just be four posts driven into the soil with wire netting attached. Place the leaves in the container and leave for a year.

If you can only gather a small quantity of leaves, place them in a plastic bag pierced with ventilation holes, water them with a fine rose and place in a shady spot for a year. The process of decomposition will not be speeded up by adding anything, although if you have one of those marvellous garden vacuum mulchers that suck up leaves and chop them, you will find the leaves rot down much more quickly. Large quantities of leaves can be spread over a plot for the worms to draw down and dug over in the spring. This does tend to hold water and is best used on light sandy soils rather than heavy clay.

Image: My Allotment Leafmould Bin

Autumn Sowing Broad Beans & Peas

I'm not a great fan of autumn sowing broad beans and peas. If successful, you do get an early crop and often the beans are finished before blackfly becomes a problem. The reason I'm not keen is that I've lost more crops than I've won. Beans like Aquadulce Claudia and The Sutton along with peas like Douce Provence are very hardy and a cold snap or snow won't usually bother them. It's wet that does the damage.

So, if you're in the dry south east, you should be fine with autumn sowed beans but in the wet north and west, it's more of a gamble especially if your soil isn't well drained. You may well get away with it if you start the beans in 8 or 10 cm pots and plant them out when they start to show.


With peas I like to start them off in half-size seed trays using a guide to place the seed evenly. Once they're away, their roots will hold the compost together in the tray and – with a bit of care – they can be planted out in the block.

Just draw a shallow trench and pop the trays in one by one to make a row.


Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for October

October is really the last of the hectic months on the vegetable plot. There’s little to sow and plant but still a fair amount to harvest and store away to eat through winter. We may be into Autumn but there are still lots of jobs to keep you out of mischief!

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for October


And finally..

I'm always happy to hear how you grow - but do tell me where in the world you are. Pictures are always great!

I'm afraid I just don't have time to answer every gardening question – often the answer is already on the site and our forums have some top notch gardeners who can help you. I do read every email though.

That's it for October, I hope you've found this newsletter useful. The next newsletter will be early November although I may send another mid-month..

Good Growing



Allotment Garden

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