With our clocks making their yearly leap backwards later this month, it’s a cold reminder that “Winter is coming!”
Away with the shorts, and out with the wellies! It’s time to raid the store cupboard and turn some of those homegrown vegetables into tasty soup! But that doesn’t mean us gardeners can hang up our spades, and take it easy for the next few months. There are still jobs to be done, my friends!
For me, this is a month for planting bulbs: daffodils, snowdrops, alliums and crocuses. I normally don’t plant tulip bulbs until November, as there’s still a risk of tulip fire infection.
Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is to plant them to the depth of three times their height. Consider adding grit for drainage as they could end up rotting if they’re sat in water over winter.
There is so much you can do with bulbs, whether planting in clumps, individually or among other varieties. If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.
I love garlic! Whether I’m eating or planting it, I think it’s a wonderful thing to grow. Garlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.
In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves 20cm apart, in rows 30 cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, just to stop birds from pulling them up.
If you’re not planting anything in your beds over winter, this is a good time to prep them for next year. If you’re opting for a ‘no-dig’ system, then gently remove weeds by hand, add organic matter to the surface and leave over winter. But if you’re someone who loves their spade, then carry out ‘first cultivation’; loosely turn over the soil, exposing the compact soil to air and the elements. This will not only help the soil break down naturally over winter, but will expose and kill any harbouring pests. You could also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure to the surface.
If you have a greenhouse, then it’s time to clear and clean. You can still use it for growing over winter; by keeping the vents closed, insulating it with bubble wrap, and even maybe even adding a heat source, you’ll be able to grow winter lettuce or cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers in seed trays for next spring. You can also use it to protect your tender plants, such as cannas.
This is a month of high winds and storms, so ensure plants, trees and shrubs are cut back and tied in, and that structures are secure.
Unfortunately, this week, I got a stark (how many Game of Thrones references can I squeeze into this piece?) reminder as to what kind of devastation a storm can do. This morning, I discovered my polytunnel had been torn in two by the recent winds.
For many this would have been heartbreaking, but I took it rather well. Up until now, I thought I had cheated fate, as my polytunnel has needed a new cover for nearly a year. I’m truly amazed it lasted this long. There’s also another reason why I wasn’t too upset about this…. but more on that in a few weeks! 😉
With several comments from the allotment old boys telling me how I could have avoided the damage, (they just have this canny knack of appearing whenever there’s a development on the allotment), I set about clearing up the mess, removing the last of the polytunnel veggies and then laying the polytunnel to rest for winter.
And now, with a cup of homemade soup to warm me up (thanks Soph!) it’s time to get out the plant catalogues, notepad and pen, and hatch my plans for the months ahead.