Chris Beardshaw: October gardens

PUBLISHED: 15:17 03 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013

Chris Beardshaw: October gardens

Chris Beardshaw: October gardens

For Chris Beardshaw, October is the month of harvesting and foraging

Mellow fruitfulness

October is the month for harvesting and foraging, says Chris Beardshaw

For me this month is epitomised by collecting blackberries and conkers with my children. We start scouring the hedgerows for the blackberries In August before they go back to school and keep a watch on them as they ripen and then at the right moment we gather enough to make a few pies and have some with breakfasts. The annual collection of conkers always results in several pots being planted up so our garden now has quite a few seedling Horse Chestnut trees waiting for a home! Enjoy your harvests and forages this month!

Leaf litter bins

Autumn winds, such as the ones we have been experiencing lately, rapidly defoliate the scarlet and amber tinted foliage of deciduous trees scattering this raw organic matter far and wide. Take a few minutes to harness this wonderful free product for preparation and use in the garden where it will transform growing conditions. Rake fallen leaves from lawns, terraces and pathways piling them in a leaf litterbin. Knocking 4 stakes into the ground vertically so that each protrudes about 90 cm constructs a frame for a leaf bin. Then wrap around the stakes with chicken wire or similar robust netting, this will contain the collected leaves while allowing moisture and air access to facilitate decomposition. After a few months the leaf litter can be added to compost in containers and also to potting mixes where it will improve water and nutrient holding capacity. It is also reputed to aid plant resistance to pathogens.

Pick and store apples

Harvest the last of the apple crops as they ripen on the tree, using blemished fruit quickly and allowing unblemished fruit to be cleaned for storage. To do this, use a moist, clean cloth. Varieties that ripen later in the season, from September onwards tend to be better at storing with some keeping fresh for several months. To store these fruits successfully retain the stalk intact on the fruit, wipe the fruit clean and then wrap in dry newspaper. Place one fruit deep in a tray or old draw and then allow sit in a cool, dry and dark environment. Check fruits weekly for signs of damage or blemishes.

Protect fruit trees

Wrap grease bands around the base of fruiting trees to help prevent infestation of winter moths. The wingless females of this pest crawl from soil to trees at this time of the year to attract winged males. The sticky bands, available from horticultural suppliers halt their climbing and therefore the infestation of grubs that attack ripening fruits next season. Also seeking to use the trees at this time of the year are insect pests, particularly woolly aphids. These small insects resemble bundles of cotton wool and hid out in the fissures of the bark during winter before infesting young leaves in spring. To control them gardeners used to use a winter wash, but alternative treatments if these pests are present on your trees include using a pressure washer to dislodge them and also hanging fat balls on the branches of the trees. The latter works by attracting birds to the garden that will harvest the aphids whilst waiting for their turn at the fat ball!

Hedges and trees

Autumn may mean that many plants in the garden retreat into a winter dormancy period but this allows gardeners the opportunity to get a head start on planting, as dormant plants often transplant more successfully than the same plant when it is growing actively. Particularly valuable to plant at this time of the year are the bare root specimens available from specialist tree and hedging nurseries. Encompassing most of the deciduous species these plants are cultivated as a crop in nursery fields, then dug up and soil as a more economical alternative to pot grown plants. As a guide bare rooted plant can save you up to 50 per cent on a pot-grown plant so larger and more generous plantings are possible. Spend some time assessing where trees, shrubs and hedges can be planted, then place your nursery orders and while awaiting delivery prepare the ground by excavating the soil and blending with well composted organic matter. Plants will arrive in polythene bags so as soon as they are delivered plant them into their new homes.

Check mint plants for rust

Things to look out for are the paling of shoots which are turning orange and becoming twisted and swollen - with the pustules appearing on the underside of the leaves and stems, normally yellow or black in colour. The rust fungus (Puccinia menthae) enters through the rhizomes which permanently affects the plant. Once you have identified the fungus you need to remove any infected leaves and either burn them or send to your local recycling centre do not add to your composting bin as the fungus will not be killed off during decomposition. If the plants have been grown in the ground rather than a pot all your mint plants will need to be replanted somewhere else and the affected mint plants destroyed.

My diary

The BBC are repeating my programme Apples: British to the Core on BBC4, Monday, October 10. Find out more about my design services and events calendar at and you can follow me on twitter@chrisbeardshaw

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