Seed saving

Save seed from beans and peas and put some of your fattest and healthiest cloves of garlic to one side for re-planting later on. Allow a few of your herb plants to flower and set seed and you’ll have free seedlings already scattered about in your beds by next spring. Seed from coriander, dill, fennel and parsley can be saved for cooking as well as for re-stocking beds and containers.  Remove spent flower heads on calendula, marigold, zinnias, poppies etc. Dry flower heads and seed pods before storing seed sealed in zip-lock bags or envelopes and stored in a freezer or stashed in a dry room for next year (remember to label clearly).

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Plant Care

Thin newly-sown seedlings to recommended spacings as they start to grow – ideally thinning should start when seedlings get to about half a finger in height.

Stake and tie in climbing and tall plants – peas, runner beans, tomatoes, sunflowers. Aubergines, tomatoes, capsicums in particular all become laden with heavy fruit and can collapse if not provided with extra support around now.




Plant Protection

Look out for Green shield bugs – (if you can’t see them you’ll know they are around by their pungent, sour smell) remove and squash, leaving corpses at base of plants. The rest of the bugs smell the dead one and drop off plants to play dead. Gather them up and dispose of them before they can escape. This is best done early morning before the sun warms them up and they become agile. Cleome and yellow mustard are great for attracting shield bugs which can then be easily collected and squished.

Cabbage white butterflies are still a threat and they’ll swoop on any winter brassica seedlings you might be planting right now. Keep an eye on broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower and kale for small, oval-shaped, yellow eggs on the underside of leaves. If left to their own devices, caterpillars will soon start munching through leaves and small seedlings can be stripped of leaves in a few days. These vulnerable plants can be protected from butterflies with fine netting stretched over hoops or sticks – the butterflies can then only hover about and wonder what might have been whilst you whack them with a badminton racket.

Powdery mildew may appear on tiring plants of zucchini, cucumber, squash and pumpkin. Remove affected leaves immediately and boost plants with a liquid feed. See our video on Powdery Mildew

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Blight is a serious problem for tomatoes and potatoes. First signs of this fungal disease are rounded brown spots which appear on yellowing leaves and blackened patches on stems. Foliage quickly wilts and plants die. This is a very infectious fungal disease that spreads through air movement. Remove infected foliage as soon as you spot it - discard in bin bags and DO NOT ADD to compost. Sometimes potatoes beneath the ground can be saved when dug up a week or so after foliage has been removed.

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Plant Food and Drink

Produce-laden and mature plants can very quickly become starved of nutrients so its time to provide swift nutrition in the form of liquid feeds such as worm juice and liquid seaweed. Heavy feeders such as cucumber, zucchini, aubergine, sweetcorn, melon and squash will benefit from weekly doses. Reduce liquid comfrey feeds to tomatoes and capsicum to fortnightly intervals once fruit has set.

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Keep a daily eye on plants for signs of stress or drying out. This is an important time to keep regular watering up for all plants. Test for moisture by sticking finger into soil beside plants – this will tell you whether your watering is penetrating adequately or not. Watering early morning or late afternoon helps to preserve moisture in the soil for longer.

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Fill plastic juice bottles with liquid feeds – seaweed, comfrey, worm juice for easy addition to watering cans.

Feed citrus trees use sheep pellets, blood and bone meal, chook manure and spread around within drip line. Most granular feeds are said to damage micro-organisms in the soil that are key for general soil health and for producing the nutrients the plants need.

Step up liquid comfrey feed to tomatoes and capsicums as they start to from fruit. Feed them weekly.



Soil Care

As they become productive, plants draw heavily on soil for moisture and nutrients so mulching is still very important to keep soil rich and moist.

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As crops are lifted and soil becomes free dig over cleared areas before enriching with well-rotted compost or manure. It is worth keeping up the momentum by digging over and enriching soil that has been cleared through harvest so that it is ready in advance of new sowings and plantings for winter and spring harvest. Lime in the form of garden lime, dolomite or crushed shell can be an important addition to beds with heavy clay soils or slightly acidic soil. You can test your soil ph levels (a measure of acidity or alkalinity) with tester kits that are often sold at garden centres. Lime raises the ph of soil making it more alkaline and this can favour leafy crops such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach.

Keep topping up your compost heaps with vegetable trimmings, seaweed, horse manure (fresh stuff), straw, thin layers of lawn trimmings, coffee grounds and shredded paper. This will come in handy around late winter when you are preparing beds for spring planting.

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Livestock

Chickens

Time to stock up on feed and prepare for winter. Rats will be hungry and persistent so check traps around your chicken house and make sure they are functioning. As wetter weather returns check your chook house is water tight and give it a good clean-out.

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Bees

A last chance to draw off honey before leaving what remains for the bees over winter. The hive population will soon start to drop as numbers of workers reduce to a maintenance number of approx. 20,000 to 30,000 as opposed to the pumping summer hive numbers of around 60,000. Drones will die off en masse. Decide on your chosen Varroa treatment for this autumn/winter and get ready to apply at the end of the month.

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