As the leaves fall at this time of year, the veg patch empties rapidly with plants being pulled up at the end of the season. You may be planting up for autumn and winter, or winding down to put your plot to bed until next spring. Either way, here’s a little guide to carry you along the next few months.
Mid/Late October: Harvest squash & tender crops
Harvest winter squash, pumpkins, and tender root veggies – summer planted beetroot, carrot – as well as any last tomatoes, courgettes and beans before the first frosts arrive.
Late October: Last chance to plant
If you’re keen to keep growing over autumn and winter, then be sure to get some plug plants in the ground before the clocks go back and the first frosts arrive.
We’d recommend growing some winter salad leaves at the very least, especially if you can plant in a greenhouse or polytunnel, and it is well worth planting some kale, spinach and chard to give you a healthy supply of greens until next summer.
October/November: Nurture soil & make a leaf mould
This is a great time to top up empty beds with compost or well-rotted manure. Either dig it in, or spread it over the top. Doing this now will give time for lumps to break down over the winter, and for all the goodness to work its way into the soil ready for spring plantings next year. To keep weeds down, cover with cardboard or black polythene.
Rake up fallen leaves and store in a chicken wire frame to make a leaf mould mulch that you can use next summer/autumn. Alternatively, add them to the compost pile.
November/December: Prepare for frosts
Depending on what you are growing, there may be a few pre-frost tasks to do:
- Cover winter lettuces and beetroots with horticultural fleece or a cloche if growing outside
- Move terracotta pots to a more sheltered area, or wrap in bubble wrap – when they get waterlogged and then freeze, they can easily crack, so preventing this is wise!
- If you’re growing parsnips and leeks, and any other winter veggies that you’ll want to pull up from the ground at Christmas, then it is a good idea to dig up a few and heel them in. To do this, get some loose soil in a frost-free spot (for example, in a planter by the side of a shed or under the shelter of a leafy shrub). Pull up the veggies, then loosely ‘plant’ them in the frost-free soil area. They’ll then be easier to retrieve when you want to use them in the kitchen!
January/February: Winter pruning & plan for spring
With fruit plants dormant, this is a good time to make sure you’ve pruned any soft fruits that you’ve been growing. Also, while it’s chilly and the days are short, snuggle up and draw out a plan for your plot for the following spring, and order your plants too. As soon as it warms up a bit, you’ll want to get out there to tend to your plot, so being prepared means you can get going sooner!
March/April: Get the plot ready
This is the time to really get to grips with things in the garden, so that once you’ve planted you can relax a bit and enjoy growing your plants. Pull up weeds, warm the soil (ready for potato planting!), fix up paths, make bamboo supports for beans, clean down the greenhouse and so on.
What about harvesting?
Obviously this will depend on the weather and what you’re growing, and will be affected by cold spells, but as a general idea you could expect the following:
Summer planted crops:
Winter Squash/Pumpkins – harvest before end October
Beetroot/Carrot – harvest before frosts
Swede, Celeriac, Parsnip, Leeks – harvest as you want it over the winter
Cabbage, Cauliflower, Sprouts – harvest as you need from now onwards – they should be fine in a little light frost.
Broccoli – harvest as it sprouts. If it hasn’t started sprouting yet, just leave it in the ground and hopefully it will start producing next spring.
Spinach, kale, chard – keep harvesting as you want to use the leaves, right through till the plants
Autumn planted crops:
Leafy Salads will be able to be harvested as cut & come again throughout the season, from November onwards, particularly if you’re growing under cover or are in a milder part of the country.
Pak Choi, Tatsoi, Turnips, Winter Greens should reach maturity in December/January
Spring Greens, Spring Onions will be more like February/March.
Broccoli should start sprouting in early spring, hopefully the end of March/early April.
Spinach, Kale & Chard should be harvestable from December/January, if not earlier – just harvest what you need as you need it.