Top Tips For Gardening in Autumn
25th October 2021
Having been around for many an autumn, it occurs to me that this season appears later and later in the year. Sometimes only just manages to show itself before we get plunged into some wintry weather. At the Community Garden in Sandgate, just outside Folkestone, we have experienced some unusual weather patterns. Some of our vegetable plants seem confused as to which season they are in, resulting in some of them bolting or trying to set seed long before they should have done. The climate may be modifying, but the daylight hours continue to vary with shorter days and less sunlight, which is another trigger for plants to monitor that seasonal change should be on its way. We have been wondering if we should delay sowing or planting some autumn loving plants or seeds; perhaps we should hedge our bets and go for traditional timings with a follow up later, just in case! Time will tell, and we continue to assess the situation and experiment.
What are we doing in the garden now?
We are now in the process of a big turnaround in the fruit and vegetable garden. The abundance of summer has finished, the plants have given their all and stopped producing. Some like the courgettes and tomatoes were destined for the compost heap to continue their existence by providing compost health and vitality for next year’s growth. The perennial plants, or those that simply rest before they come back again the following year are starting to withdraw back down into their roots to bide their time until the longer days and warmer weather return.
However there is still plenty growing and at their best this time of year. We have sprouting broccoli, cabbages, lettuces, mustards, spinach, chard, kale, leeks, winter radish, celeriac, swede, and parsnips, plus a few autumn raspberries and goji berries. Of course this seasonal produce will have been sown or planted many moons ago and planned well in advance.
Right now we are starting to prepare for some crops to come in the spring and summer 2022 and have just sown broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) able to withstand frost and snow, and planted onion sets plus garlic. No need to worry if you are unable to get these going just yet as there is still time all the way through to March to start these off, but being in the milder South East, we often get away with being able to overwinter certain crops which mature earlier as a result. At the Community Garden we always sow or plant into modules or plant trays, and only direct sow carrots and parsnips as they have long tap roots which dislike being restricted. The advantage of working like this means the beds remain full and can be replanted as soon as they become free, making for two or three crops in the same space over a year.
As well as fruit and vegetables, we are keen to support our local wildlife, although not so keen to allow the local badgers to consume all our autumn beetroot which they obviously enjoyed when we made the mistake of removing the netting a few weeks ago! We have two bee hives within the garden so want to be able to provide them with flower nectar and pollen as well as encourage other insects to visit too. Following Kent’s Plan Bee, we have this year planted many more flowering plants and plan to provide even more next year. This is the time to get bulbs which are readily available in most supermarkets and garden centres right now. They can make an amazing display planted lasagne style in pots or planters if you have little room in your garden. The largest bulbs go down the deepest, and can then be topped by more compost then smaller bulbs and finally plant the winter flowering plants on top. No need to worry about them being able to find their way out and around all the other bulbs and plants – they work it out for themselves and make an ever changing display for months on end.
If the storms do not manage to blow off all the autumn leaves before they have a chance to show their colours, then there will be a multitude of places to see this amazing seasonal display, from Bedgebury Pineatum through to Pluckley Walk, and a vast multitude of parks, woods and forests we are indeed fortunate enough to have in this county. So get out there and engage with some trees before it is all over and the branches are bare. In Sandgate we are indeed lucky to be surrounded by woodland, which is unusual for a seaside destination, and we have such walks on our doorstep.
At the Sandgate Community Garden In Enbrook Park, we will be continuing to work every week come rain or shine (unless it is blowing a hooly, or tipping down with rain) on Wednesday and Saturday mornings as there is always much to be getting on with. You can find us on Instagram sandgatecommunitygarden or on Facebook Sandgate Community Garden for our latest news or should you wish to join us. Perhaps one of the best outcomes of the pandemic has been the rise and rise of community gardens and community growing projects all around the UK and if we are not in your locality, and you fancy getting involved, then find out if such a group exists near you – or maybe start one…… now there is a thought.