As the garden starts to drift into autumn it’s time to choose how you want to progress. We can quietly let everything gently senesce and fall away or we can vigorously rage against the dying of the light and not go gently into the long nights of winter. The choice is yours. Here at GROWHQ there is obviously no choice, we have to maintain our garden both for produce for the kitchen and to keep everything looking as attractive as possible. So, no holiday just yet for the garden team.
It’s certainly preferable to keep everything going as long as possible rather than getting it out quickly. I’m managing all crops to prolong the harvest. We are still quite dry here in Waterford. I had brought all the irrigation equipment in last week but in the absence of any substantial rain I checked the soil in the beds of newly sown seedlings and realised they were too dry, so back out with the irrigation. Interestingly (or annoyingly!) I made the wrong call on the beds for the winter salads, sown into the ground where the early potatoes came out. The raised beds were made high and uncompacted as I wanted free draining beds anticipating heavy Autumn rains. This has caused problems with drying out for the seedlings. Like all growers I really could do with a crystal ball, or at the very least a reliable medium range weather forecast. If the second mini drought continues I will also have to get water onto my peas, beans & courgettes or their production will tail off. Some crops have required a top dressing of organic fertiliser. Heavy cropping medium term crops, such as the kale and chard we have been cropping through the summer, will benefit from a top dressing of nitrogen, but this obviously needs watering in to be effective, even a liquid feed can be ineffective on dry soil. I certainly can’t relax just yet.
The tunnel crops also need to be managed to keep things going. Tomatoes will happily keep cropping well into November- if they are manged correctly. In the damper days of autumn, the plants can easily succumb to rots, such as grey mould, and are still vulnerable to blight. To control both the plants need aggressive de-leafing (This doesn’t mean you swear and throw leaves vigorously around the tunnel) taking off leaves well up the stem. This ensures that the plants can stay dry. The tops need to be taken out now as any flowers forming after late August will not have a chance to form ripe fruit. Watering should also cease later in September, you then have a dry tunnel which you can keep unventilated to raise temperatures without getting the plants wet. This is all so that you can come for lunch in November and still have the fresh flavours of summer- Though if you leave it till January you will be relying on JB’s considerable skills to turn leeks and kale into something fresh and exciting.