“November’s sky is chill and drear, November’s leaf is red and sear.”
– Sir Walter Scott
The weather this October has been really warm. As a result the allotment still has flowers blooming and on my last visit the ivy was awash with bees buzzing away.
October has still offered produce to harvest. The last of the raspberries have now been devoured, or are left for the birds to feast on. Our apples this year haven’t been the best, so only a few of the later apple variety have been available to use in dishes like those in my favourite five apple recipes. The plus side of an apple crop which has fallen or rotted on the tree, is a bumper windfall for the birds, with thrushes, blackbirds and starlings all gorging themselves. We have managed to harvest the last of the pumpkins and squashes, using them in risottos, cakes and to accompany many dishes. The Jerusalem artichokes are starting to be dug too. I love the nutty taste they bring to dishes, such as this Jerusalem artichoke purée. The Swiss chard is also looking resplendent in the autumnal sunshine, and has been a great addition to the kitchen too.
This time of year is great for planting out onions and garlic for overwintering, and even broad beans, given the mild autumn we’ve had so far. I usually plant a crop of each of these at this time of year, then another sowing in the spring. This helps with the successional cropping next year, but also allows for different varieties to be grown easily, and utilises space which otherwise would be left bare.
November is the last chance to get a few jobs done, until the weather turns for the worse on a more regular basis. The leaves that have fallen all over the allotment need sweeping up in order to make leaf mould. Although leaf mould contains not many nutrients; it makes a great mulch which, with little further attention other than a little watering in dry periods in summer and the occasional turn, also makes a good addition to any compost. The birds will soon need a bit of help with food too, so I’ll be putting up some feeders and using the old sunflower heads to fill them with seeds. It will also be time to make another bird food wreath.
This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.
We’re getting a new shed at the allotment; a larger one, with a wood burner. The site of the shed is the present compost area, so I’ve had to respite the bins. This is a good time to empty compost bins, allowing more space for the autumn clear up. I’ll spread the compost on the empty beds, turning it in as we have really heavy soil. The worms and frost should work together over the winter to give a better structure to the soil.
Some of the compost will also be used as a mulch for our dahlias. It tends to be relatively mild in general; so the dahlia tubers don’t need to be lifted, but can be covered in 10cm or so of compost as an insulating blanket. That should keep the dahlias snug through the winter, ready to flourish again next year.
Whereas dahlias could need lifting, I’ve been planting daffodil bulbs and I’ll be planting tulips soon too. We’ve always had a few tulips at the plot, but this year I intend to plant more – so we can have a few cut flowers for the house. I’ll plant some under the apple tree to add some early season colour; I’ll also plant some as part of a corridor of bulbs (lining the main path). The tulip bulbs need to be in the ground before the cold comes, so allowing their roots to establish. They should be planted in a hole roughly three times their height; and if, like our plot, the soil doesn’t have good drainage, they benefit from some grit at the bottom of the hole.
The plot also needs a bit of a tidy, with brambles and trees to prune and wood chip paths to replenish. Still this should give some fuel for a bonfire in a few days time!