I don’t feel quite ready yet to think about autumn tasks in the garden but all the evidence suggests that summer is coming to an end. I had to clear fallen leaves from some of the vegetable patches today – plus there is a definite chill in the morning. The geese have been spotted flying overhead, their noisy honkings a sign of the changing season.

A big job at the moment is harvesting and of course storing the crops. We all have an eye on the sweetcorn which is fattening nicely.

Autumn growing conditions

  • Plant growth slows and stalls as temperatures fall and daylight hours diminish
  • The first frosts usually arrive in October
  • Only a select group of vegetables will be able to germinate at this time of year and survive the colder months

Sowing and planting

  • September is your last chance to sow winter salads for growing under cloches or in a green house or polytunnel
  • Sow hardy peas and beans to overwinter and provide an early crop next year (October/November)
  • Plant garlic (October/November) and autumn onions (September/October)
  • Plant out spring cabbages

Harvesting and Storing

  • Harvest crops when they are ripe and in peak condition
  • Store as many crops as possible for later use
  • Make chutney and preserves
  • Some crops can be blanched and frozen (e.g. peas and beans)
  • Store root crops in a cool dark place (e.g. shed)

Other tasks

  • As crops finish use the ground to sow quick-growing and over wintering green manures (crops which can be worked back into the soil to replace nutrients)
  • Collect and save seeds for next year
  • Make notes on what has grown well for next year
  • Net all brassicas to protect from hungry pigeons
  • Continue feeding tomatoes until the crop is over
  • Mulch plants which will overwinter in the soil
  • Protect plants with cloches
  • Insulate greenhouses and polytunnels
  • Reduce watering and ventilation in greenhouses
  • Insulate pots being left out for winter
  • Plots can be dig over as they become vacant and covered with plastic, carpet or an organic mulch to smother weeds and minimise winter soil damage