Monthly Growing Guide By Alan J Hartley For
Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec


Many people have a plot in the Autumn and are at a loss to know what to do with it, but there are several vegetables for which it is the ideal time to start planting. October is definitely a month to plant a few choice crops in preparation for an early harvest next year. Broad Beans are often not sown until the Spring, but there is one variety called Aquadulce, of which there are several strains, that can be set now. They will germinate and put on some growth before the Winter sets in. You may suffer the odd loss in a bad season, with heavy snow for instance, but the bulk of your plants will have a flying start next Spring as the weather starts to warm up. This will mean that they harvest about a month earlier than normal enabling you to replant the patch where they come out of. Japanese Onions are another earlier than normal cropping strain of vegetable that can be planted now. Again they will crop about a month earlier than other varieties and of course Garlic can go in now. If you don’t plant your Garlic until after the Winter it may not form individual Cloves as it needs an intense cold spell to develop properly. Do remember to plant both Onions and Garlic in a different place to previous years so as to help prevent problems like Rust, Eel Worm, Allium Leaf Miner and Rot from developing. Indeed, this “Crop Rotation,” is very important to prevent problems and pests building up in many other things including Hardy Peas that can also be sown now. 
If you are going to grow things like Daffodils, for cut flowers, then it is time to start planting them as well as other Spring Flowering Bulbs.

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Now we are into October we will start to get some colder nights that mean it is time to think about getting your greenhouse ready for Winter. Firstly, it is a good idea to clean the glass as light levels throughout the coming Winter will be lower, so you need to make the most of what light there is. Lining your Greenhouse with Bubble Polythene will help keep the temperature up and indeed will keep up to 5 degrees of frost off, or so we are told. There are several different grades of Polythene available and different types of fixing methods that you can use for different greenhouse. Simple drawing pins maybe OK for wooden greenhouse, but for most metal greenhouses you will need special plastic fixing clips that slot into the channels of the aluminium framework. You will undoubtedly lose a few occasionally as they have the habit of popping out unexpectedly, but you can reuse them for many years as indeed you can the Bubble Polythene if you store it away carefully each Spring. Initially it may seem quite expensive to line a greenhouse, but the insulation will undoubtedly save far more than the cost of the bits.

For added protection on the coldest nights you can cover plants with Horticultural Fleece that is available to buy everywhere these days. There are different grades which will vary greatly in their durability so do choose carefully. The fleece acts like a blanket over plants, but is transparent enough to let some essential light through and porous enough to let the plants breathe which of course Polythene wouldn’t. At the end of the season it can be washed if necessary and stored away for future years. 

A good greenhouse heater is a sound investment and of the different types Electric heaters with a thermostat are probably the most cost effective, although there are a few people who use Wood burning stoves and many who still use Paraffin heaters. Wood stoves are obviously a very old fashioned way of heating greenhouses and require a lot of attention to keep them burning over night. Paraffin heaters are quite cheap, but dirty, you have little control over the heat output and they need careful use. Ventilation is very important with them because of increased moisture levels and fumes. On an Allotment where you haven’t got electricity available they may be the only reasonable choice though.
For most people at home an Electric Fan Heater is the best option. You can leave the heater turned on all the time and just leave it on what is called a “Frost Setting.” This means that the heater will just come on only as the temperature nears freezing and will turn off at all other times, although with some they can be set to leave the fan running to keep the air moving and help prevent plants from developing Mildew. For many plants “Frost Free,” conditions will be all that is necessary to get them through Winter. Geraniums, Fuchsias, Gladiola, Chrysanthemums and other things like tender Citrus plants and Bananas will all benefit from such conditions. After Dahlia plants have been blackened by the developing colder weather outside, they can be lifted, dried off and stored in boxes with a little soil around the tubers. Again a frost-free greenhouse is ideal for them, but do remember that they really do need to be kept dry over Winter, or else they will rot. Indeed that goes for most over Wintering plants with the exception of Citrus plants that do need to be kept moist.

If you grow Sea Kale you will find that the leaves will have died off by now and can be removed and composted. However, Asparagus foliage should be left on a few more weeks until the cold actually takes it. All the time it remains green it is putting energy into the roots for next year. Many people cut the tops off too early and then they get a reduced crop in the Spring.

Late October and early November is the time to put Grease Bands on Apple, Pear, Cherry and Plum trees to prevent the wingless, female Winter moth from climbing up the trunks to lay her eggs that will eat into dormant buds and spoil next seasons fruit. Grease Bands come in many forms, but are quite cheap and effective. However, they are terrible things to handle if you haven’t got the knack as they are coated with a sticky substance that doesn’t dry, or wash off very easily. There is one simple trick to remove it from your hands though and that is to rub your hand with fine dust, such as that off a garage floor. This binds with the sticky and enables you to wash it off easily.


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