Autumn is upon us! It’s the time of year when we start wrapping things up, bringing things in and battening down the hatches. If you have grown beans and peas you will be bringing in the last of the harvest at this time of year – when they have finished fruiting you can cut the plants down to ground level but leave the roots to rot down in the soil for added nitrogen. If you plan to grow beans again next year you can start preparing the ground already, forming trenches to fill with manure or fruit and vegetable peelings.
Keep an eye on your squashes and pumpkins, raising them so that they have more exposure to light and remain dry, and harvesting them before the frosts to prevent them becoming mushy. You can test the ripeness of apples by simply lifting them in your hand or giving them a gentle tug, they should come away easily. Remove diseased fruits from branches so next year’s crops aren’t affected. You can also remove the netting from fruit cages at this time of year.
Hang tomato and pepper plants with green fruits on them upside down indoors to encourage ripening. You can also try placing unripe fruits on a sunny windowsill or enclose them in a paper bag with a ripe banana – some growers claim that placing unripe fruits in a dark, warm place works best – let us know what works for you!
Cut back any remaining fruited raspberry canes, leaving new green canes for next year and tying them in for support. Clear the straw away from strawberry plants to increase ventilation and cut back old leaves to encourage new growth. Divide congested rhubarb plants, re-planting the healthiest looking pieces. Herbs such as chives and marjoram can be divided at this time of year as well. You can protect Autumn cauliflower heads from frost by wrapping and tying their leaves around them. Citrus trees will need to move indoors, somewhere bright but away from draughts and radiators.
You can reuse grow bags by cutting away old plants and using the space for late salad crops – to extend cropping into Winter you can use cloches or polytunnels. Consider sowing green manure over Winter rather than leaving soil bare and unused. If you have a greenhouse make sure any shading has been removed, ensure space for ventilation between plants and consider using a heater if needed to keep the frost away from tender plants.
Other important jobs in the garden at this time of year include cleaning out or checking water butts for any blockages, so that you are able to store rainfall water effectively. You can reuse used compost as a mulch and start creating lovely new, rich compost by collecting fallen leaves. Consider installing a bird bath and feeders if you don’t yet have them – birds are essential for a healthy and biodiverse garden.