Here we go: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. You can always tell that autumn is coming, when people start quoting Keats.

After a fairly spectacular summer, it is perhaps now time to start putting the garden to bed. Just before that… October is a good time to plant onions and shallots, garlic, rhubarb and asparagus: seed potatoes planted now (if you can find them) should be ready by Christmas. Some broad beans will live happily through the winter, and produce an early crop next year, and many of the brassicas can be bought as young plants,  so perhaps you can fill a few beds with cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Any ground you are not using can be manured and dug over, leaving large clods to be broken down by rain, frost, and the larger members of the family Oligochaeta, more commonly known as earthworms.

Lewes District Council now have a food waste collection service, and this is obviously a Good Thing. However, as a gardener, why would you want all those wonderful nutrients taken off site? Far better to compost your kitchen waste, and return it to the soil.

Perhaps best to avoid composting meat scraps and other cooked foods (this is what dogs are for) but teabags and coffee grounds, potato peelings and pea pods can go in a bin or a heap, together with judicious quantities of cardboard and torn-up newspaper. Of course your garden waste will go in too.  The trick, if you are new to this, is to balance the green (which adds nitrogen) with the brown (carbon). Too much leaf, and it will go rather soggy, so go easy on the grass clippings. Too much twig, and you will slow the process of decomposition, since wood contains lignin (which breaks down very slowly).

Hedge clippings and the brash from a pollard present a challenge: where does the leafiness end, and the woodiness begin? If in doubt one can shred them – they make a handy mulch – or add them to an autumn bonfire. Wood ash is a useful source of potash, and can be added to the manure in para (2) above.

Since man cannot live by cabbages alone, perhaps you could stick a few spring bulbs in here and there? Daffodils at any time, but tulips best left for another month.

Jon Gunson, TTL.


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