Feeling the season turn | The Voice of the Allotment

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As the autumn draws in, the allotment keeps producing – the main harvest has slowed but Barry Cuff is already picking winter salad

Barry’s second Ironman calabrese crop

By the end of September about 60 per cent of our plot had been cleared of the remains of the already-harvested vegetables, leaving bare soil. During October and November these areas will either be sown with green manure* or mulched with either our home-made compost or two-year-old horse manure. We don’t like leaving bare soil over the winter months!
At this time of year there is plenty of material to add to the compost heaps – with a large allotment we have four heaps. One will provide us with good compost during October. The second and third will be at different stages in the process of breaking down the ingredients, while the fourth is the one to which we are currently adding new material.

A Cobnut is a type of hazelnut, traditionally grown in Kent

On the plot
After the potatoes were dug mid-to-late summer, part of their area was planted up with leeks and sown with leaf and root vegetables for autumn and winter salads. All have put on good growth during September and we have already cut some of the Oriental mustards.
We have continued cropping both runner beans and French beans during the month, thanks to fairly warm nights. Only twice did night time temperatures drop below 10ºC. We continue to pull beetroot and carrots when required, too, as we do with celery.
The celeriac has been mulched and fed with liquid seaweed this month – the swollen stem bases will be ready in November.
The brassica area looks well. During the sunny days cabbage white butterflies have been busy laying eggs on the plants, so we have to be on the lookout for caterpillars.
We have cut some excellent red and white cabbages for coleslaw, stir fries and salads.
At the beginning of the month we cut some large heads of Ironman calabrese – and within three weeks we were cutting smaller side shoots!
The four courgette plants continued cropping, but had finally slowed down by the end of the month.
The squash area gradually lost a lot of its leaves and we were able to see all of the fruits at last; these will be ready to harvest in early October.
Tomato plants in the greenhouse continued providing us with a mass of fruit, though we picked the last of our outdoor tomatoes on the 22nd.
Our raspberries gave us fruits all through the month, and the Kentish cob bushes gave a heavy yield of large nuts. All of these have been shelled, dried and stored in Kilner Jars.
As we cleared the ground, we allowed a few of our special ‘weeds’ to flower – either for the bees or just because they are unusual (and nice to see). They include thornapple, borage, moth mullein and Apple-Of-Peru.
*fast-growing plants sown to cover bare soil. Often used in the vegetable garden, their foliage smothers weeds and their roots prevent soil erosion. When dug into the ground while still green, they return valuable nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure.

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