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Vegetable Garden

Seven jobs for your autumn vegetable garden

October 2, 2014

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable garden“And all of a sudden it was autumn”

The words from the social media stream of Foxglove Lane, one of my favourite photographic blogs, captured the almost overnight change in our weather. Our wonderfully long Indian summer is coming to an end. The leaves have started to flutter down in the autumn breeze and the hedgerows are giving us hints of the glorious shades that will soon adorn the landscape in their fall displays.

In the laneways the hedge cutters are busy trimming and tidying and thankfully those around us are doing so with sharpened blades that don’t leave the branches scared, torn and naked. The hedgerows are looking trim and tidy, ready to take the weight of snow that may befall them and the regrowth that springtime will bring.

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable gardenIn our homestead Mr G has been busy clearing out sheds so he has room to cut and store firewood and make space for workshop repairs, a never-ending pastime when you live in an old, rescued farmhouse.

And the garden… I’m beginning to despair at the lack of time I’m managing to find in my own. I do know however, this is a temporary glitch, soon I’ll be able to spend some precious hours inhaling the scent of soil and vegetation, preparing the garden for winter, hopefully before the rains come.

If you’re growing vegetables and are wondering what you could be doing outside now in the autumn days to ready it for winter, here’s seven jobs you could be getting on with. I keep adding to them, this was meant to be a list of five, and of course there’s plenty more, but I might frighten myself if I begin to list them all…

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable gardenSeven Jobs in the Autumn Vegetable Garden

1. Pumpkins, Courgettes and Squash

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable gardenThe days and nights are still warm but that could change, quick as a flash. Keep a close eye on your squash plants and the weather forecast as members of the squash family are frost tender. If you haven’t already done so, cut the stems of any plants that aren’t producing fruit and stop them growing. Small fruit are unlikely to amount to anything at this stage so its sadly time to get rid of them too. It may seem harsh but it will allow the plant to put all it’s energy into developing the remaining fruit on the plant. For more information on growing, harvesting and caring for squash, the RHS have a very useful information page here.

Courgettes will be coming to the end of their season and you may have noticed some whiteness on the leaves. This is likely to be powdery mildew and can be treated by removing the worst of the infected leaves from the plant and spraying the rest with a solution of 30% milk to 70% water. Don’t forget that plants have a natural lifespan and many will be starting to die off at this stage anyway so it may just be time to let nature take her natural course.

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable garden2. Clear away dead plants and debris

Now’s a great time to get outside and clear away all the debris of plants that have finished growing. Compost anything that’s not diseased, tidy away canes and netting. Clear away dead leaves away from plants such as the brassica that will be overwintering.

3. Cover the Soil

Once you’ve cleared away all the old plants and vegetable debris from around your garden, you may be left with beds of bare soil. If you’re not planning on planting any vegetables to overwinter, it’s a good idea to cover the soil with well-rotted manure or compost then cover them with black plastic or cardboard to prevent the nutrients leaching out during the winter months and polluting water streams. This will not only feed the soil over the winter months but prevent weeds growing too.

If you don’t have access to manure or compost, most garden centres and online stores now sell green manures that can be sown and left to grow until the springtime before being dug into the soil before planting season begins again.

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable garden4. Start Collecting Leaves

Leaves are a valuable source of nutrients and will rot down to create leaf mould that will turn into a wonderful soil conditioner. It’s a good idea to keep leaves separate from your compost area. Sacks can be purchased to keep them in or make a leaf mould bin using four fence posts and some chicken wire. The Secret Garden blog explains leaf mould in more detail and why it makes sense to collect our leaves.

5. Look After Your Rhubarb Patch

I spotted some very useful tips from the Real Men Sow blog recently that will tell you how to look after your rhubarb patch in the autumn. If you haven’t done so already, stop harvesting, let the leaves die down naturally then mulch heavily with well-rotted manure. Don’t cover the crowns completely is it may encourage rot to set in. Tending to your rhubarb now will make sure you get a good crop of stalks next year.

6. Harvesting

7 jobs for the autumn vegetable gardenGrab what you can when you can! I’m pining for some time to preserve all the fruit and vegetable growing in my garden but have given up stressing about it. Berries (including hedgerow berries) can be frozen flat on trays then bagged up, ready for some quieter time during the winter months for jam and juice making. Apples can be washed, peeled, sliced and basted with lemon juice before freezing flat on trays, then bagging up. Runner beans can be blanched and frozen in handy sized bags and courgettes will keep for a while in a cool, dry shed. (Whatever would we do without a freezer?!)

7. Plant something new

Just because we’re approaching winter, doesn’t mean we can’t grow anything. Now’s the time to plant overwintering onion sets and garlic cloves. Oriental salad leaves grow well in our climate as well as winter spinach and hardy peas.

If you’d like more than seven things to get on with in the vegetable garden, check out the Garden Tips page on the tab above for a month by month guide, as well as some handy, free downloads. Oh and if you can think up any upcycling ideas for a pile of old bicycles, be sure to let me know!

Green

Community Harvest Fruit Projects

December 1, 2011

Community Harvest Fruit ProjectsLast week I headed up to Dublin to attend a Harvest Seminar organised by Green Home, a framework that are supported by the Environmental Protection Agency to support and advise householders on ways to protect the environment whilst saving money on their household bills.

Green Homes is an extension of the green schools programme and a really worthwhile initiative run by a very enthusiastic and committed bunch of people. (So do take a look at their site if you’d like to get involved.)

Back to the harvest seminar though, in the lead up to the European Waste Reduction week Green Homes organised a fruit awareness programme, encouraging local groups, schools and individuals to map then harvest fruit that is often wasted each year because people don’t have the time, energy or physical ability to harvest them, or just don’t notice that the fruit is going to waste.

This idea really appealed to me, particularly as I’m involved with community gardens and can see the potential to the community groups I work with.

So often, as you walk or drive around the towns, villages or countryside, you can see apple trees dripping with fruit that you know will just go to waste. At the same time supermarket shelves are stacked with perfectly shaped cardboard and cellophane packets of apples that have usually been imported from overseas. Is there not something slightly skewed about that? Food is being wasted, literally left to rot on the trees or ground, yet money is being spent on importing goods destined for our fruit bowls? Even today whilst shopping in Lidl (who are usually pretty good at stocking Irish goods) there were no Irish grown apples and yet they’re still in season. Thankfully other supermarkets such as Supervalu are stocking them, but shouldn’t it be the norm rather than the exception?

So Irish apples may not be as tasty as imports, but there are many uses for them apart from eating them in their raw format. At the Savour Kilkenny weekend the Futureproof Kilkenny group were pulping apples and handing out apple juice to passersby. It struck me then that if every parish owned a pulper/juicer wouldn’t it be a great excuse for a community harvest knees up (River Cottage style perhaps)?

Community Harvest Fruit ProjectsI’m really hoping that this event is just the beginning of something good, something that can grow and develop and be another step towards communities working together. I’m hoping that it will be a chance for people to learn about communities becoming more sustainable and at the very least, a darn good excuse to get together and have a bit of an old fashioned knees up.

Note: If you’re living in the Republic of Ireland and would like to participate in the green home scheme where you can monitor your household’s performance with the aim of reducing your environmental footprint, you can register your interest here.