Tales from the plot for October

This is the month when it feels as if the year is starting to turn, the days are noticeably shorter, the sun is lower in the sky and temperatures are dropping. Leaves are changing colour and beginning to fall and you are likely to get the first early frosts. 
At this time of year most of the work is primarily about clearing away and composting the remains of the summers harvest, however do keep hoeing!
I try to remove all dead foliage and old, dying plants and add them all to the compost. Clear away all bean poles, canes and plant supports and use weed suppressant membrane (for allotment holders this must be water permeable) to cover areas, this keeps weed growth at bay and allows you to sow earlier next spring.
As far as the potatoes are concerned the old way is to lift them and leave the crop to dry in the sun. This ‘curing’ hardens the skins, and the tougher the skins the longer they will store. I normally just leave mine in and take them as I want them, yes some potatoes that are near the top do get frosted but it’s normally very few – you can now lift carrots and other root vegetables where possible and store.
Earth up leeks and celery to keep the stems blanched, use cloches to cover and protect any late sown crops, especially salad crops, continue picking apples and pears and cook or eat any that are damaged straight away. Only store perfect fruit, any that are blemished will simply rot and infect the others stored.
Broad beans: you can now sow seeds of early varieties, they should overwinter and give you a crop in the following June, this works for some but not for me, I’ll delay planting mine until February.
Cabbages – last chance this year for transplanting spring cabbages, plant them in ground that has been well firmed and cover with nets to protect from birds, especially pigeons. You can now plant garlic cloves; as long as they are not in a waterlogged area they will overwinter, the longer they are in the ground, the bigger next year’s bulbs will be for harvesting….hopefully.
Rhubarb should be entering the dormant period from now until March, so now is the best time to plant new sets or divide and replant old crowns.
Plant new, bare root bushes this month allowing them time through autumn to get their roots down before start of next growing season.
Richard Thorpe 15 B Syston allotments