Vegetable Growing

What To Do in March
There is no such thing as an absolute set date for a job in gardening, for a start temperatures vary according to where you are in the country. Winter comes earlier to Scotland than Devon. Next, each year is different; some warmer and some colder although the trend is toward warmer the exception proves the rule.
So, adjust for where you are and the weather
March is the month when things really start to move in the growing season, in fact the start of the year used to be The Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March until 1752 in Britain when we adopted the Gregorian calendar and started our year on the 1st January.
Harvest
Any leeks left standing should come up now – you can freeze them for use in soups and stews. Parsnips too should come up in early March before they try and re-grow.
You may have spinach beet and chards available, the last of the late Brussels sprouts, winter cauliflowers, kale, swedes, salsify and scorzonera.
Don’t forget to keep checking the purple sprouting!
Sowing & Planting
If the weather permits you can plant your onion and shallot sets. March is usually the right time to establish an asparagus bed if you are starting from crowns. Mid March should let you start planting those early potatoes you’ve had chitting and talking of root crops, you can plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers now.

Things to Sow
• Beetroot
• Broad Beans
• Early Peas (but they may do best started in a gutter in the greenhouse then slipped into a trench)
• Brussels sprouts – early varieties like Peer Gynt will be ready in September
• Kohl Rabi
• Leeks
• Lettuce
• Radish
• Parsnips
• Spinach Beet
• Early Turnips
Sow in Heat
Windowsill or a propagator in the greenhouse will come into use now to start off your tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers.
Under Cloche
Summer cabbages and early cauliflowers, early carrots will get away best under a cloche. If you set your cloche up a week or two beforehand, it will warm up the soil so you will get even better results.
Many of the crops you can sow directly will also benefit from cloching, especially as you move northwards or started off in modules in a cool greenhouse or coldframe and then planted out later.
General Jobs on the Allotment
Have a good tidy up and finish those odd construction jobs because you are going to be busier still later in the year.
If you have any horticultural fleece, you can peg that onto the ground a week or so before you plant. The small rise in temperature of the soil can make a big difference.
Fruit Planting & Pruning
March is the last chance to plant bare-rooted trees, berries and canes. If you are quick you can also plant rhubarb crowns.
Prune your apple trees and gooseberries. They’ll benefit from some compost spread around the base as well
What To Do in April
April is great, the soil is warming up and spring should be here. Do keep an eye on the weather forecast though, even in the south of England a cold snap and snow are not unknown in April. Keeping horticultural fleece on standby in case of cold weather is a good idea.
Harvest
We’re in the ‘Hungry Gap’ between the last of the winter crops and start of the early crops but there are still a few things available, late sprouting and chards for example plus you may have some early salad crops from the greenhouse border.
Do re-check your stored crops. On a fine day, empty out the potato sacks and check for any rotten potatoes. If you’ve strung onions, watch out for the odd rotten one and remove it before it spreads,
Sowing, Planting & Cultivating
There’s quite a list to sow and plant outside, especially if March has not been suitable. Do remember the weeds are springing into action, so keep the hoe going.
Don’t forget, a sharp hoe is the best friend a gardener can have. Just slide it back and forth slightly below the surface of the soil and you’ll stop the weed seedlings in their tracks. Hoeing is also good in the event of drought as the disturbed soil surface stops the water being sucked to the surface by capillary action and evaporating in dry winds.
Things to Sow Outdoors

• Beetroot
• Peas
• Broad Beans
• Broccoli
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• Cauliflower
• Kale
• Chard
• Kohl Rabi
• Leeks
• Spinach
• Beet spinach
• Rocket
• Lettuce
• Radish
With your carrots, covering with a fleece and ensuring the edges are buried will stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by your carrots. The eggs hatch in larvae that burrow into the carrot root, killing the plant or at least ruining the crop.
Plant Outdoors
Globe and Jerusalem Artichokes
Onion & Shallot Sets
Asparagus.
Easter is the traditional potato planting time. If you have a comfrey bed and it has sprung back, the first cut laid in the trench under the potatoes will provide nutrition to get them off to a good start.
On the subject of comfrey, if you make a comfrey tea it will help you to a great crop to use it on your potatoes. Many novice growers wonder why they have small crops of potatoes and most often this is just down to lack of food for this hungry crop.
Sow in Heat (Greenhouse or Windowsill)
• Aubergine
• Celery
• Outdoor Cucumbers
• Tomatoes (if you’ve not already done so)
A good tip in a windowsill is to stick some silver cooking foil onto cardboard and place on the inside to reflect light back onto the seedlings. This will help revent them being drawn.
Under Cloche
• French beans
• Lettuce
• Sweetcorn
I like to pre-chit my sweetcorn, I lay the seeds on a layer of damp kitchen paper and then place a layer of paper over in an airtight box. An old ice-cream carton or a Tupperware type box is ideal. Check carefully each day and as soon as the small white sprout appears, plant the seed about half to an inch deep in a 3″ pot of general purpose compost in the greenhouse.
When the shoots appear plant out under cloche being careful not to disturb the root (sweetcorn hates root disturbance) under a cloche. Sweetcorn needs a lot of nitrogen and a teaspoon of dried blood per plant or water with urea (this is a chemical, I do not mean pee on them!)
General Note
If you have any horticultural fleece, you can peg that onto the ground a week or so before you plant. The small rise in temperature of the soil can make a big difference.
Fruit
Strawberries can be planted out now, it’s best to remove flowers in the first year as you conserve strength for growth and gain larger crops in subsequent years. An easy way to gain strawberry plants is to plant the runners into pots and when rooted cut the runner. The plants don’t last forever so you need to rotate them ever three to five years.
Hand pollinate peaches and nectarines. Tickle the flowers with a small paint brush to spread the pollen. Cover if a cold spell threatens.
A good layer of compost around the base of fruit trees will ensure they have the nutrition to provide another good crop for you.
Gardener’s Pests
I’ve mentioned the carrot root fly but the gardener’s worst enemy is awakening. The evil slugs and snails are coming out to eat entire rows of succulent young seedlings overnight so take action now

What To Do in May
May is one of the busiest months in the kitchen garden. The soil is warm and everything should be growing well. Unfortunately the weeds are growing well too so there is no time to relax. Do watch out for a late frost, many growers have been caught out and lost their recently planted beans etc. Keep that fleece handy just in case.
If you do not have any horticultural fleece you can use old net curtains, bubble wrap and the traditional newspaper as a method of insulation when a cold night is forecast.
Harvest
Depending where you are and what you planted, you may have some salad crops ready. Hardy lettuce and spring onions, fast growing radish may well be available. If you tried potatoes undercover, you may well be getting the odd meal from these.
Winter cauliflowers, spring cabbage, sprouting broccoli and kale should be ready now.
The luxury crop asparagus may be starting for you as well this month. Unbeatable!
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
Cultivation
There are two main cultivation jobs you need to keep on top of in May. First, the weeds are growing. Hoeing them off as small seedlings will make the job far easier than waiting for them to grow and send their roots down. Hoeing is best done on a dry day so that the weeds do not have a chance to recover. Don’t forget to sharpen your hoe before you start and frequently as you use it.
The other cultivation job outdoors is to thin out. We sow our carrots and parsnips and it seems a shame to remove seedlings we were so happy to see appear but it needs to be done.
Sowing
There is a lot to sow this month and with many crops you can sow one set and then a few weeks later re-sow to give you a succession of fresh vegetables at the peak of perfection. If it is a dry May, it is a good idea to soak your seed drill before sowing and then just water with a fine rose after.

• Runner Beans
• Beetroot
• Broccoli and Calabrese
• Cabbage and Cauliflowers
• Chicory
• Kale
• Kohlrabi
• Peas
• Turnips and Swedes
• Your salad crops should be sown in succession
• Lettuce and Leaves such as Rocket
• Radishes
• Spring Onions
Sowing under cover
• Sweetcorn
• Courgette
• Marrow
• Pumpkin
These really don’t like starting in the cold and you only grow a relatively few plants so starting off in pots is well worth the investment.
Sweetcorn does not like its roots being disturbed so some people pack old toilet roll inners with compost and sow in there, planting out the whole roll when ready. Because you are in a cardboard pot, they can dry out very easily and you need to ensure they are planted with the whole roll below ground level or the collar will encourage drying out and restrict growth. It is easier to use something like root trainers although an ordinary three inch pot will suffice if care is taken at planting time.
Planting Out
If your plants are large enough, you can plant out now:
• Brussels sprouts
• Summer cabbages
• Celery
• Celeriac
• Leeks.
With leeks a good rule of thumb is to get the seedling about as thick as a pencil. Dib a hole about six inches deep using something like a spade handle and drop the seedling in. Water well and allow the soil to fall back in naturally.
The old method of trimming the roots and top before transplanting leeks is not actually a good thing and has been shown to be detrimental. It’s a big enough shock to the plant being taken out of its seedbed!
In the greenhouse
The following are ready for their final home, that may be the border, a growbag or a large pot.
• Aubergine
• Peppers (Chilli and Sweet)
• Cucumber
• Tomatoes
Fruit
It’s mainly a matter of ensuring that you get the crops rather than the birds. A fruit cage is a big investment but very effective, otherwise netting to keep the birds away.
Strawberries planted this year will perform better in subsequent years if you remove the flowers so they don’t set fruit in the first year but concentrate on building their strength for next.
General Tasks

As I said above, keep hoeing off the weeds but perennial weeds like dandelion and dock will need their roots removing to prevent re-growth. Bindweed can be a nightmare to stop, any small piece of root will grow. It’s by far the easiest to use a spray of glyphosate based weedkiller, which will go to the roots and kill the plant.
Another weed that re-appears at this time is Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense). You will need repeated applications of glyphosate weedkiller for this which will keep the plot out of action for a while as it does its work.
Organic growers will just need to keep hoeing and removing roots. This will eventually defeat the weed but it’s a long, hard job.
On the subject of weedkillers, if you have used a product such as ‘Weed and Feed’ on your lawn, the mowings may well be toxic to your crops. Often you need to compost
Gardener’s Pests
Don’t forget the slugs are about, if you find an entire row of seedlings have vanished overnight you can bet it was slugs.
With your carrots, covering with a fleece and ensuring the edges are buried will stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by your carrots. The eggs hatch in larvae that burrow into the carrot root, killing the plant or at least spoiling the crop.

What To Do in June
Flaming June should bring us a hot sunshine filled month with the risk of frost passed and those in more northerly parts should be able to catch up with those in the south. We’re also moving towards the longest day, June 21st being the summer solstice so there is plenty of daylight to let you get on with things.
There is a lot to do in June but the rewards for our efforts are coming in the harvest.
Harvest
Salad crops should be available, lettuce, spring onion, radish etc, Summer cabbage and early carrots. With carrots the later thinnings can provide a great addition to a salad or just steamed with a cooked meal.
The early potatoes will be coming in this month. Because your potatoes will be going from ground to pan in a matter of minutes you will discover a truly wonderful flavour.
Beetroot, young turnips and summer spinach may all be welcome fresh additions to your diet.
The early peas could well be cropping in June, especially in the south
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
Cultivating
As with May, we really need to keep on top of the weeds. Hoeing them off as small seedlings will make the job far easier than waiting for them to grow and send their roots down. Hoeing is best done on a dry day so that the weeds do not have a chance to recover. Don’t forget to sharpen your hoe before you start and frequently as you use it. Keeping a small sharpening stone or file in your pocket will make this more convenient.
Continue thinning out your carrots, parsnips, beetroot etc. As I said above, later carrot thinnings can provide a tender and tasty addition to a meal.
Water when required. Your best measuring instrument for water is your finger. If the top of the soil looks dry, insert your finger into the soil. If it’s dry at the tip, then you need to water.
Don’t just sprinkle a few drops on the surface, it probably won’t penetrate and do any good. Far better to give a good soaking less frequently that will get to the roots of your crops.
In very dry weather, keeping the surface friable by hoeing will help keep the water from getting to the surface by capillary action and then evaporating away. It also helps water soak in when you do get some rain.
Planting
You should be able to plant out brassicas now. Broccoli and calabrese, Brussels sprouts, summer cabbage.
If you have started beans in pots, both runner and French these can go into the outside too. Leeks may well be ready to move to their final position. Ideally they want to be about pencil thickness. Don’t follow the old guidance to trim the leaves and roots when transplanting leeks. It has been proven to be of no benefit and is counter-productive. Celery can go out now as well.
Outdoor tomatoes can go to their final position now. When moving plants from greenhouse to outdoors it is a good idea to condition them to the move. Take them out in the day and put them back at night for a few days or move from greenhouse to coldframe. This avoids shocking the plant by a sudden and drastic change in climate.
Sowing
There is a lot to sow this month and with many crops you can sow one set and then a few weeks later re-sow to give you a succession of fresh vegetables at the peak of perfection. In dry weather it is a good idea to soak your seed drill before sowing and then just water with a fine rose after.
• French and Runner Beans
• Maincrop peas
• Beetroot
• Carrots
• Turnips
• Swedes
• Cauliflowers
• Chicory
• Endive
• Kohlrabi
• Sweetcorn
• Squash
• Courgette and Marrows
• Cucucumber
Beetroot, french beans, carrots, kohlrabi, peas, lettuce, endive,radish should be sown at intervals throughout the summer months to provide a constant supply Successional sowing ensures you always have fresh crops at the peak for your table
In the greenhouse
Keep pinching off the side shoots with your tomatoes and keep an eye out for pests such as aphids, whitefly, red spider mite. If you are subject to attack by these pests it is worth checking out biological controls as these are perfectly safe to use and, used correctly, more effective than traditional chemical controls. Many of the chemical controls of the past are no longer available anyway so the organic alternatives are now the mainstream choice.
Fruit
Make sure your fruiting plants have sufficient water when the fruit is swelling. This is critical to a good crop.
Thin out plums and apples in June. Better to have one reasonable apple than three miniature marbles. Nature naturally tends towards this and sheds excess fruit. This is known as the ‘June Drop’. It’s best to thin out after this.
General Tasks
The infantry of slugs and snails are attacking at ground level so take action to keep them down and the air force of birds are coming from the skies to eat your crops. Don’t forget the netting.
The butterflies are about now as well. Beautiful as they are, check the undersides of your brassica leaves for the yellow or white eggs that will hatch into caterpillars and devastate the plant. You can squash them, wipe or wash them off easily at this stage.
What To Do in July
July is usually one of the driest months so a lot of time may be spent watering. You can reduce water loss and save yourself some time by preventing water loss. Mulching with a layer of organic matter will help preserve moisture but may encourage slugs so you will need to take action against them.
Another good method of preventing water loss is to hoe. This not only kills the weeds but breaks up the top of the soil stopping water from being drawn to the surface by capillary action and evaporating.
Harvest
The harvest should be in full swing now, providing you with the following:
• Broad Beans
• French Beans
• Runner Beans
• Cabbage
• Carrots
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Courgettes
• Cucumbers
• Kale • Kohlrabi
• Lettuce
• Onions
• Spring Onions
• Peas
• Early Potatoes
• Radish
• Spinach
• Tomatoes
• Turnips
When you harvest your potatoes take care to remove all the tubers. Any left will not only sprout next year and become a weed but will also be a reservoir for disease and potato blight spores. It’s often worth forking over a few days after harvesting potatoes because more seem to miraculously appear.
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
Sowing
There are still quite a few things you can sow in July.

• Spring Cabbage
• Chicory
• Chinese cabbage
• Kohlrabi
• Lettuce
• Peas
• French Beans
• Beetroot
• Carrots
• Radishes
Green Manure
When you have harvested your potatoes you might like to consider sowing a green manure crop. Mustard is fast growing and is supposed to confuse the potato eel worm into breeding at the wrong time. It is a brassica so don’t use it if you suffer from club root.
Another fast growing crop you can use as a green manure is French beans. Even if you have enough beans to feed an army, the plant produces a fair amount of leaf and stem plus the roots, as with all legumes, have nodules containing bacteria that fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Free fertiliser as well as organic matter.
Planting Out
If they’ve not gone out yet, it’s time to plant out your leeks. Just dib a hole about 150mm 6″ deep and drop the leek into the hole. Water it in and the job’s done. Don’t follow old advice about trimming the tops and roots, it has no beneficial effect and is probably harmful. You don’t need to fill the holes with soil, enough will wash in with watering and rain. The reason you plant in a hole is to blanch the stem
It’s also the month to plant out:
• Broccoli and Calabrese
• Cabbages and Cauliflowers
• Kale
Cultivating
Keep on top of the weeds, it really is far easier to hoe them as small seedlings than as grown plants. Even if you can not see any weeds, hoeing will actually be killing tiny seedlings you have not noticed and will be helping reduce moisture loss as I said above.
Keep your tomato sideshoots in check, you want tomatoes not masses of foliage. Ensure they are watered regularly, drying out prevents the plant from taking up sufficient calcium and the deficit causes blossom end rot.
Don’t forget to feed your tomatoes as well, we demand a lot from them and need to keep them well fed. It’s a good idea to give your maincrop potatoes a feed as well. A major cause of poor crops with potatoes is poor nutrition. They are a very greedy plant and a boost now will pay a dividend in tubers. A feed balanced as for tomatoes is ideal. If you make your own feed from comfrey, this is ideal.
Keep your onions well weeded and don’t forget to feed them as well to get the best possible crop.
In the greenhouse
Ensure good ventilation. It can get incredibly hot in a greenhouse with strong sun and scorch your plants. You should also consider shading the house either with blinds or films or with a shading wash
Fruit
Many fruits are ready to harvest or swelling. Swelling fruit requires a lot of water so ensure they have enough.
July is a good month for summer pruning apple trees.

General Tasks
Keep on top of the pests. Aphids and Blackfly are a particular problem. You can control them with pesticides or just wash them off many plants with a strong jet of water. A wash with soft soap will do no harm to the plants and will reduce numbers.
With broad beans you can pinch out the tops which are most attractive to blackfly. Another ‘trick’ is to plant some nasturtiums which attract blackfly. You can then pull the nasturtiums and their blackfly.
Keep an eye on your brassicas for butterfly eggs and caterpillars, these will most probably be under the leaves. Pick or wash them off before they dine on your dinner.
What To Do in August
August is often the summer month with blue skies and hot so a lot of time may be spent watering. You can save yourself some time by preventing water loss by mulching with a layer of organic matter, which will help preserve moisture but may encourage slugs so you will need to take action against them.
Another good method of preventing water loss is to hoe. This not only kills the weeds but breaks up the top of the soil stopping water from being drawn to the surface by capillary action and evaporating.
Harvest
The harvest should be doing well, providing you with both fresh vegetables and vegetables to store over winter.
• French Beans
• Runner Beans
• Cabbage
• Carrots
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Courgettes
• Cucumbers
• Kale
• Kohlrabi • Lettuce
• Onions
• Spring Onions
• Peas
• Early Maincrop Potatoes
• Radish
• Spinach
• Tomatoes
• Turnips

When you harvest your potatoes take care to remove all the tubers. Any left will not only sprout next year and become a weed but will also be a reservoir for disease and potato blight spores. It’s often worth forking over a few days after harvesting potatoes because more seem to miraculously appear.
If blight has struck your potatoes the best method to preserve the crop is to remove the haulm and dispose of it then leave the potatoes in the ground for a fortnight to stop the spores getting onto the tubers. It’s best to harvest potatoes fairly early in the day, rinse them off as they come from the ground and then leave in the sunlight for a day to thoroughly dry off and harden the skins before storing.
Sort carefully and place perfect specimens into hessian or paper sacks in a cool dark but frost free place. Damaged tubers should be used first before they have a chance to rot and spread their rot to the rest of the sack.
It’s worthwhile to empty the sacks after a few weeks or a month and check that there are no potatoes going off. Discard these before they rot the sack. You might like to pop a few slug pellets into the sacks as well. It’s amazing how the slugs can appear no matter how careful you are. If you are concerned about slug pellets, remember these are in store and present no risk to wildlife.
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
Sowing
There are still quite a few things you can sow in August.
• Spring Cabbage
• Chinese cabbage
• Kohlrabi
• Lettuce (sow a hardy variety for winter use)
• Spring Onions (White Lisbon winter hardy)
• Radishes
• Spinach
• Turnips
Green Manure
When you have harvested your potatoes you might like to consider sowing a green manure crop. Mustard is fast growing and is supposed to confuse the potato eel worm into breeding at the wrong time. It is a brassica so don’t use it if you suffer from club root.
Another fast growing crop you can use as a green manure is French beans. Even if you have enough beans to feed an army, the plant produces a fair amount of leaf and stem plus the roots, as with all legumes, have nodules containing bacteria that fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Free fertiliser as well as organic matter.
Planting Out
August is the month to plant out:
• Savoy Cabbages and Cauliflowers
• Kale
Cultivating
Runner beans that have reached the top of their supports will benefit from having the growing tip pinched out.
Keep on top of the weeds, it really is far easier to hoe them as small seedlings than as grown plants. Even if you can not see any weeds, hoeing will actually be killing tiny seedlings you have not noticed and will be helping reduce moisture loss as I said above.
Keep your tomato sideshoots in check, you want tomatoes not masses of foliage. Ensure they are watered regularly, drying out prevents the plant from taking up sufficient calcium and the deficit causes blossom end rot.
Keep feeding your tomatoes, we demand a lot from them and need to keep them well fed.
In the greenhouse
Stop tomato plants now to encourage fruit to swell and ripen. Stopping is the process of cutting off the growing tip so the plant’s energy is not diverted into foliage from fruit.
Keep a close eye out for pests such as whitefly which can controlled with either biological controls or sticky yellow cards. The fly is attracted to yellow and once on the card cannot get off.
Ensure good ventilation. It can get incredibly hot in a greenhouse with strong sun and scorch your plants. You should also consider shading the house either with blinds or films or with a shading wash
Fruit
Many fruits are ready to harvest or swelling. Swelling fruit requires a lot of water so ensure they have enough.
Finish summer pruning apple trees and prune mature plums after fruiting.
Plant new strawberry plants and pot up runners from established plants.

General Tasks
Keep on top of the pests. Aphids and Blackfly are a particular problem. You can control them with pesticides or just wash them off many plants with a strong jet of water. A wash with soft soap will do no harm to the plants and will reduce numbers.
Turn your compost. The warmth will be helping your compost break down and turning it out to in will ensure even breakdown. Water if it is dry as the microbes need some water but don’t make it absolutely sodden.
Keep an eye on your brassicas for butterfly eggs and caterpillars, these will most probably be under the leaves. Pick or wash them off before they dine on your dinner.
What To Do in September
September is the end of summer although we’re often lucky to have an Indian summer with blue skies and sunshine, nothing is certain with the weather. The bulk of the harvest comes home now and as crops come out the plot begins to empty
Harvest
The maincrop potatoes should be ready now. To repeat August’s advice regarding harvesting potatoes:
When you harvest your potatoes take care to remove all the tubers. Any left will not only sprout next year and become a weed but will also be a reservoir for disease and potato blight spores. It’s often worth forking over a few days after harvesting potatoes because more seem to miraculously appear.
If blight has struck your potatoes the best method to preserve the crop is to remove the haulm and dispose of it then leave the potatoes in the ground for a fortnight or longer to stop the spores getting onto the tubers.
It’s best to harvest potatoes fairly early in the day, rinse them off as they come from the ground and then leave in the sunlight for a day to thoroughly dry off and harden the skins before storing.
Sort carefully and place perfect specimens into hessian or paper sacks in a cool dark but frost free place. Damaged tubers should be used first before they have a chance to rot and spread their rot to the rest of the sack.
It’s worthwhile to empty the sacks after a few weeks or a month and check that there are no potatoes going off. Discard these before they rot the sack. You might like to pop a few slug pellets into the sacks as well. It’s amazing how the slugs can appear no matter how careful you are. If you are concerned about slug pellets, remember these are in store and present no risk to wildlife.
You may well have reasonably sized parsnips now but they will stay perfectly happy in the ground and do taste better after they have had a frost on them.
The runner beans and French beans will be continuing to produce and the last of the peas should be coming in. Compost the foliage of the peas but leave the roots in the ground as the nodules on them contain nitrogen.
The harvest will be in full swing and in addition to the above you should have:
• Beetroot
• Cabbage
• Carrots
• Cauliflowers
• Courgettes
• Cucumbers
• Globe Artichokes
• Kale
• Kohlrabi
• Lettuce • Leeks
• Marrows
• Onions
• Pumpkins
• Radishes
• Spring Onions
• Spinach
• Sweetcorn
• Tomatoes
• Turnips
From the greenhouse you should be picking aubergines, chilli and sweet peppers as well as cucumbers and tomatoes.
If you grow fruit then the picking should be in full swing there as well:
Apples, pears, plums, peaches from the trees, blackberries and raspberries from the canes and strawberries from the bed.

Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
Sowing
There’s not a great deal to sow now but surprisingly it’s the right time to sow winter lettuces such as Arctic King for spring harvests.
The other salad crop is the winter hardy spring onion. I’d suggest White Lisbon but ensure it is the winter hardy version.
Green Manure
Early September is the time to sow green manures. If you do not need to dig over your plot as you do with heavy soils or intend to spread manure on a patch then following on the last of a crop with a green manure is a great idea.
The first benefit is that the green manure will hold onto soil fertility that would otherwise be washed out by the winter rains. In fact, sowing a legume such as Winter Tares will fix nitrogen from the air.
Secondly, they will prevent weed growth so you will have less work to do.
Finally they help improve the soil structure. In the spring you just need to dig over and allow them to rot down for a few weeks.
One of the best green manures for winter growth is Hungarian grazing rye. It continues to grow, albeit slowly, in cold weather and should be around 15″ tall come the spring from an early September sowing. Not only will you have a lush mass of foliage but it also produces a mass of roots that will provide humus for bacterial breakdown.
Planting Out
Your spring cabbage plants can be planted out now and over wintering (Japanese) onion sets can go in for an early onion harvest.
You can plant out garlic as well although I prefer to plant it out later in the year.
Cultivating
Keep feeding your tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It’s not really worthwhile feeding other plants at this time of year as they are nearly finished and the nutrients are best saved for the spring. Keep the side shoots in check on the tomatoes.
Fruit
Tidy up the summer fruiting raspberries, cutting off the canes that have fruited and tying in the new shoots that will bear next year.
The summer fruiting strawberries can be attended to now as well. Cut off the foliage about 1″ from the ground, clearing and weeding as you go. Any runners can be planted up to replace 3 year old plants that are best replaced now.

General Tasks
Keep an eye on your brassicas for butterfly eggs and caterpillars, these will most probably be under the leaves. The greenhouse pests should be declining but keep an eye out if the weather is good.
Making Compost
If you’ve not already done so, empty your compost bins. The compost that is ready can be spread on the ground and the compost only partially rotted returned to the bin to finish off.
You will probably have quite a bit of foliage ready to compost and building a heap properly will help the transformation from green waste to valuable compost. At the base of the heap place woody material, sweetcorn stalks etc to allow some airflow up into the heap. Next place a six inch layer of green material and add some sulphate of ammonia or dried blood to add nitrogen. Just a small sprinkling is sufficient, about 50g per square metre (2oz per square yard) is about right.
Another layer of green material but this time lightly sprinkle with lime to keep the pH up. Repeat the process and top off with a piece of old carpet or some plastic sheeting to stop it getting too wet in the rain and to keep the heat in.
The heap should heat up after a few days and be ready to turn in four or six weeks. The smaller the particles the more surface area they have relative to weight and the faster they will decompose. If you have a shredder, this will be ideal but otherwise cut things up with shears, crush things like brassica stems and they will go down much faster.
What To Do in October
Harvest
By now the maincrop potatoes should be ready. As the foliage dies back you can cut this off and leave the potatoes for a couple of weeks. This will prevent any stray blight spores from infecting your crop. Wait for a sunny dry day and dig up the potatoes, brushing off excess soil and letting them dry before storing in hessian or paper sacks in a frost free, dark shed.
The last of the beans should be picked now, compost the foliage but leave the roots with their nitrogen full nodules in the soil as a fertiliser.
Carrots can come up to be stored in sand or peat through the winter but leave the parsnips in the ground. They’ll be sweeter after a frost.
Cabbages should come up now too, they’ll keep remarkably well in that frost-free shed but beware the slug that may be lurking under the leaves. Sprinkling the outside with salt will deter them from eating away through the winter,
Any green tomatoes on outdoor plants may as well come in now before the frost gets them. You can make a green tomato chutney or ripen them up indoors. Green tomatoes will actually store quite well in cool conditions and slowly ripen or you can hasten the ripening process by popping them in a tray in a sunny windowsill with a ripe banana.
General Jobs in the Garden
As ground becomes vacant you can dig it over and spread manure over the surface. Leave the soil roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break these up as they get the manure. The freezing and thawing of water in the soil will cause the soil to break up finely so becoming easier to handle in the spring.
October and November are good months to undertake double digging, incorporating manure into the bottom of the trench and deepening your topsoil.
With finer soils where digging each year is not necessary, you can plant a green manure crop to overwinter such as field beans.
Dig in any green manure crops such as mustard that you planted earlier in the year.
Your compost bins will be filling up as the last of the crops come in so now is a good time to give them a turn to help even decomposition and cover them to keep them warm and damp rather than soaking wet. If you’ve got a comfrey patch you may as well take the last cut and add to the heap to activate it.
The leaves will start to fall very shortly and these are a valuable resource. Prepare for them by building a leaf mould cage. Very simple to do, you just drive four stakes into the ground and staple chicken netting around to make the cage. Pile in the leaves and leave them alone for a year. You will find the pile reduces by two thirds at least, so keep filling the bin as more leaves fall. If you have one those marvellous garden vacuum mulchers that suck up leaves and chop them, you will find the leaves rot down much more quickly. Watch out for council sweepers, they may just drop you a load of leaves when they call to collect a few veggies off you.

Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
It’s not too late to plant out Japanese onion sets, these are hardy and will overwinter producing a crop about a month earlier than the spring planted onions. A cloche or fleece covering will get them off to a good start and stop the birds from pulling them out.
You can plant your garlic now although this job will hold over into November easily. If you have time and the weather is fine, it’s worth doing it when you can because who knows what November’s weather will be?
You can sow broad beans now to get them off to an early start next year, but in colder areas it may be better to wait until spring as germination is more patchy on winter sowings. Better late than never.
Remove any yellowing leaves from over-wintering brassicas, they are of no use to the plant and will encourage botrytis to develop.
Fruit
When the strawberries have finished tidy up the bed, cut off the tops, remove dead leaves, rotting berries you missed under the foliage and remove self-planted runners.
Fruit bushes such as black and red currants should be pruned, as should the gooseberries. Now and November are good months to attend to the raspberries, blackberries etc. It’s also a good time to plant new canes, adding some compost and 8oz per square yard or 250 grams per square metre of bonemeal to keep them well fed.
In the greenhouse

If you’ve not already done so, now’s the time for a good clean out. Take out all those pots and bits you’ve left in there and put them in the shed – you can tidy that up later!
Next it’s time to wash the greenhouse down, a little detergent and disinfectant and a scrubbing brush. Getting the glass clean will allow more light through in the dark days and cleaning the frame will remove pests looking for a good spot to spend the winter.
If you are going to be using the greenhouse through the winter, you can now insulate it. Bubble wrap is good or heatsheets will do the job. Don’t forget you will still need some ventilation or mould will run riot in the house.
You can also sow a hardy lettuce like Arctic King and grow them on in your border to give you a salad whatever the weather.
What To Do in November
Harvest

Usually November means the hard frosts have started and it’s time to harvest winter cabbages and cauliflowers. Sticking with the brassicas, the Brussels sprouts should be starting. You are allowed to eat them on other days as well as Christmas day!
Leeks should be about ready, just take what you need and leave the rest to stand until required. You could still be harvesting celery and celeriac, kale and kohl rabi as well as turnips, swedes and spinach.
The carrots should come up for storage now, either in peat or sand or even a traditional clamp.
Parsnips will stay in the ground but if the weather turns really cold, you need to cover them or you will not be able to take them from frozen ground.
Jerusalem artichokes will be available and you can start on Salsify and Scorzonera. Salsify is often called the ‘vegetable oyster’ and properly cooked is a wonderful vegetable.
It’s worth checking any vegetables you have in store and removing anything that has started to rot before it spreads. Potatoes especially need to be checked and watch out for slugs that have emerged from a potato to go and damage another one.
General Jobs in the Garden
Digging can continue, when weather allows. Particularly with clay soils, digging when the soil is wet and sticky can do more harm than good. It’s also more hard work.
As with October, as ground becomes vacant, you can dig it over and spread manure over the surface. Leave the soil roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break these up as they get the manure. The freezing and thawing of water in the soil will cause the soil to break up finely so becoming easier to handle in the spring.
October and November are good months to undertake double digging, incorporating manure into the bottom of the trench and deepening your topsoil.
Ensure compost bins are covered to prevent excess rain leaching the nutrients and to keep some of the heat of decomposition in.
Leaf fall should be well underway and to recap on October’s advice:
The leaves will start to fall very shortly and these are a valuable resource. Prepare for them by building a leaf mould cage. Very simple to do, you just drive four stakes into the ground and staple chicken netting around to make the cage. Pile in the leaves and leave them alone for a year. You will find the pile reduces by two thirds at least, so keep filling the bin as more leaves fall. If you have one those marvellous garden vacuum mulchers that suck up leaves and chop them, you will find the leaves rot down much more quickly. Watch out for council sweepers, they may just drop you a load of leaves when they call to collect a few veggies off you.
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
Time to plant your garlic cloves now. They actually benefit from a period of cold, which prompts growth later. They don’t like to sit in water, so if your soil is heavy and holds water, try dibbing a hole with an old spade handle or suchlike. Put about an inch of sand into the base and plant the clove on top, filling above with fine compost. This ensures good drainage and stops rotting.
Broad beans can be sowed now to gain an early crop next year, although more northerly areas can find germination so poor as to make the practice of autumn sowing counter-productive.
You can also sow some hardy pea varieties such as Meteor.
It’s too late for most green manure crops except for grazing rye to hold nutrients in the soil for the spring, when it will be dug in.
Remember the pigeons will be on the look out for food, so net your brassicas to keep them away. It’s worth removing any yellow leaves from your winter brassicas. They are doing no good and encourage diseases such as botrytis.
Fruit

Apples and pears can still be available as are autumn fruiting raspberries. As with October, November is a good month to attend to the raspberries, blackberries etc. It’s also a good time to plant new canes, adding some compost and 8oz per square yard or 250 grams per square metre of bonemeal to keep them well fed.
Check any young trees are well supported with stakes and ties. Stakes can tend to work loose, which means they won’t be doing their job of preventing wind rock loosening the roots.
You can prune your apple and pear trees now.
In the greenhouse
As per October, give the greenhouse a good wash down and clean up prior to insulating if you intend to use it through the winter. Decrease ventilation but do give the greenhouse a good airing on fine days to stop disease developing and especially downy mildew.
Successional sowings of winter salads can continue.