The Impact of Autumn on the Allotment
Our Aga is being serviced next week. Apparently, after an Aga is serviced, they are then switched on again for the Winter.
This caused some consternation in our household. ‘It’s not even Autumn yet!’ I cried. ‘Yes it is,’ countered Ailsa, citing the astronomical calendar. She’s very good at evidence based argument.
As it turns out, the start of Autumn depends on whether you’re following the astronomical or meteorological calendar.
If, like my wife, you’re a fan of the astronomical calendar, then your seasons are defined by the Earth’s axis and orbit around the sun, and Autumn began on 1st September. The meteorological calendar is used by meteorologists to keep the seasons a consistent length, and so for those lucky folk, it’s still summer until the 22nd September.
One thing Ailsa and I can agree on, is that if Autumn hasn’t arrived yet, it will do very, very shortly, and will certainly have a big impact on the allotment.
The weather will gradually become colder, as temperatures drop in line with the average for Autumn, which is a shivery 9.4 degrees celsius. This means curtains for the more delicate Summer plants, such as tomatoes, squashes, courgettes and French beans. These plants will die off and need clearing away and composting, but void composting any infected plants, such as tomatoes with blight.
Keep The Tomatoes Ripening!
The drop in temperature also heralds the permanent closing of the greenhouse door to protect the crops inside. Tomatoes will stop fruiting, but those on the vine will continue to ripen and are normally harvestable until the end of November.
Cutting back foliage will improve air circulation and help keep blight at bay, as well as letting more sun in. The more sun that gets to the tomatoes, the more that will ripen before the Winter. For tips on extending your greenhouse tomato harvest, try this post.
Some of the hardier Winter crops will also be happy to receive some help to get them through the colder months. Autumn brings stronger winds, so have some stakes ready for the taller plants like kale and Brussel sprouts. These guys may be tough in the face of cold weather, but their height makes them vulnerable during gusty periods.
Dismantle and clean any structures before the windy days come too, especially if they are made from bamboo canes. The cold and grotty weather will make the canes brittle, and strong winds can snap them. Brittle canes can also break at the bottom when you try and pull them from the ground – no good if you planning on re-using your canes in the years ahead.
Rhubarb and Rain
Rhubarb will prefer replenishment to protection, so pull up any unused stems, and add a thick layer of well rotted manure around the crowns. Rhubarb is a hungry plant, and this will aid recovery no end. Wave goodbye and look forward to the little pink stems poking through the soil again next year.
And of course, it rains more. Lots more. It’s therefore vital to harvest any fruit of veg that needs storing before the rain spoils them. Dig up the remaining maincrop potatoes to stop them rotting in the soil, and don’t let squashes lay on wet ground too long, as this will damage the skin.
Rough dig bare patches of the plot before the rain makes the soil heavy to work, especially if your soil is made up of clay. Your back will thank you if you can get as much dug over before Winter!