Temperatures are dropping, strong winds are blowing leaves and twigs off the trees and it is time for an autumn tidy-up in the kitchen garden.
The lush summer growth of courgettes and runner beans is still allowing the plants to fruit, so we will leave them until they have finished producing, although they are starting to look untidy.
The main autumn jobs in the kitchen garden include:
- Weeding: Weeds are easily pulled up when the soil is damp – but we avoid treading on the soil, particularly at this time of year when it paddles easily and the soil structure is then damaged. The walkways come into their own, as we can access the garden, and keep our feet dry and the soil un-trampled!
- Collecting up bits & pieces – such as cloches, pots, and netting. These will be cleaned down and put away until next year. In fact everything that is not in use should be removed. Even bricks & stakes that had a perfectly useful purpose in the growing season should be cleared. All these objects provide shelter for garden pests such as slugs, snails, rats and mice, or overwintering sites for insects and fungi.
- Staking the sprouts and kale will be finished off, so the stalks are tied to the stake. These brassicas get top-heavy when they are wet and could topple over.
- Autumn Lawn Care – the most essential job is to remove the leaves as often as possible. It is easier to do this when the leaves are dry, when they can be mowed or raked up. If leaves are left to pile up and get wet, they become mushy and are then difficult to collect up. Heaps of leaves covering a lawn obscure the light, so that the grass will go yellow, eventually die & leave bare patches. Weeds and moss will then colonise these bare areas.
- Collecting leaves from vegetable beds - although leaves eventually rot and provide nutrients it is better to remove them to the compost heap & return them to the beds later on as compost. This keeps the beds tidy and pest free.
- Pruning soft fruit - if not already done. Strawberry leaves are cut back to the crowns, so that all the old diseased leaves are discarded and fresh new ones can grow to take the plants through the winter. The fruit bearing canes of the summer fruiting raspberries are cut down, and the two strongest new canes are left.
An autumn tidy up in the kitchen garden is well worthwhile, making the garden a more enjoyable place to be over the winter.