If you’re growing your own fruit and veg, autumn isn’t a time to rest on your laurels! There’s still plenty you can do, from planting new, winter crops, to ensuring your plants are primed to survive the colder weather and be ready to bear fruit again come spring.
There’s still time to sow overwintering turnip, spinach, winter lettuce, Oriental vegetables and broad beans. In cold regions or for a quicker harvest, sow them in pots or trays in a cold greenhouse or cold frame and grow on under cover in containers or growing-bags.
Plant overwintering onion sets to provide an early crop next year.
Spring cabbage plants should be transplanted to their final positions. Cover them with fleece or netting to stop pigeons getting to them.
Regularly pick quick maturing vegetables, such as French beans, runner beans, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, to prevent them becoming stringy, tough or bitter and to encourage further crops.
Once summer crops are finished, the plants should be consigned to the compost bin. Those that are suffering from diseases are best removed and disposed of by some other means.
Irregular watering can lead to problems with blossom end rot on tomatoes, splits in root vegetables and pea and bean flowers aborting. Help prevent this by watering regularly during dry spells.
Keep up too with watering winter squashes and pumpkins in growth; this will prevent their growth from being checked and ensure bumper crops.
Don’t stop feeding tomatoes still in crop – as the days shorten liquid feeds can be invaluable in helping ripen the last fruits of the season.
Remaining outdoor tomatoes should be picked by the end of the month and ripened indoors. The whole truss can be cut off to allow the fruits to ripen ‘on the vine’ under a cloche or on a windowsill. Green fruit that won’t ripen can be used in chutneys.
Now’s the perfect time to be ordering and planting all new fruit trees, bushes and canes.
New trees can be planted once the autumn sets in and the dry weather is over. The soil will still be quite warm in September even if the weather is cool, and the roots of new plants will benefit from this. This is particularly important for peaches and nectarines.
Make sure the soil is well prepared with plenty of organic matter – such as well-rotted manure, compost, composted bark or tree planting compost. Mix in more organic matter with the soil dug out from the planting hole.
Always plant at the same depth that the plant was originally growing and firm the soil around the roots.
Trees will need to be staked with a good tree stake and secured with two tree ties.
After planting, mulch the soil around fruit trees and bushes with a 5-7.5cm (2-3in) thick layer of organic matter to help keep weeds down and maintain soil moisture levels in summer.
Regularly pick all fruit as it becomes ready. Don’t leave it on the tree to become over-ripe – but don’t pick too early or the full flavour won’t have developed. Most fruit is ready when it comes away easily in the hand. Long-handled fruit pickers make picking so much easier – especially if you have tall trees to deal with.
Apples and pears are generally ready to pick when they readily part from the tree when lifted gently in the palm and given a slight twist. Pears are best picked when slightly immature. They should then be left a couple of days at room temperature to reach full maturity.
Find more information about growing your own at www.lovethegarden.com