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October 4, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley’s Head Gardener’s gardening tips for October

2014-09-19, Neil Harrison AWG Phil photos (75) Phil with Turks Turban squashAs usual, at the start of the month, Apley’s Head Gardener’s shares with us his gardening tips for October. You may also read this in the Shropshire Review or County Woman.

These spectacular photos are by Neil Harrison ( or 07854 131 141), which do so well to illustrate daily life in the garden.

As ground becomes vacant after harvest, you can dig it over & spread manure over the surface. Leave the soil roughly dug in large clumps & the worms will break these up as they get the manure.

As November is a month of heavy frosts & lots of rain the freezing & thawing of water in the soil will cause the soil to break up finely so becoming easier to handle in the Spring.

Digging over introduces air into the soil, loosening it & avoiding it turning into a solid pan. It also exposes insect pests to the open air where the birds can eat them. Double or deep digging & introducing manure or composts to the base of the trenches will deepen your top soil providing a better growing medium.

Keep a close eye on your winter brassicas & if they have survived the caterpillars the next pest will be the birds as they are hungry at this time of year so cover with netting if required. With staked Brussels sprouts, double check all is firm or wind rock will break the root hairs & cause the sprouts to blow.

Leeks should be ready now, so harvest every other one in a row leaving the rest to grow on. Brussels sprouts should be starting as well so pick from the bottom of the plant upwards. Along with sprouts you can harvest kale & take up the winter cabbages & cauliflowers. A cauliflower tightly wrapped in cling-film kept in the fridge can be kept fresh for as long as six weeks. Main crop carrots can be lifted to store safe from pests in damp sand or peat in your store along with parsnips but they do hold in the ground better than carrots. Jerusalem artichokes will be available & you can start on salsify & scorzonera & orbis. You may still be able to harvest celery & celeriac, kale & kohl rabi as well as turnips, swedes & spinach.

2014-09-19, Neil Harrison AWG photos (15), view East to WestCheck any vegetables you have in store & removing anything that has started to rot before it spreads. Potatoes really need to be checked & watch out for slugs that have emerged from a potato to go & damage another one.


It’s pruning time for apples & pears & they’ll benefit from some compost around the base as a mulch. With younger, staked trees check the stakes are firm & the ties. Winter winds can shake the roots loose on young trees causing poor growth or even death .

As with October, November is a good month to attend to pruning the raspberries, blackberries & hybrid berries as well as being the ideal time to plant bare rooted canes. Don’t forget to add plenty of compost to the soil & 250gr (8oz) per square yard of bonemeal.

Vegetable of the month

2014-09-19, Neil Harrison AWG photos (37) 3 volunteers 2Parsnips – Fine words butter no parsnips.

As this is the season of casseroles & stew, what better vegetable than the parsnip that gives such sweet flavour. The parsnip is a humble vegetable & is origins are right here in England. There isn’t an exact date for domesticity, but the Romans were very fond of them & used them to make wine & roast them as we do today. The parsnip is happy in cold climates & the full flavour only develops after a good frost, which turns the starch into sugar giving that lovely sweet flavour. For this reason they have always grown well in northern climates, but oddly it appears they didn’t make the journey to America with the first settlers & are not used in their cuisine. This may be due to the lack of varieties or maybe they are just too sweet?

Here in the UK & Eastern Europe, they are a staple food. Even though the seed is notoriously short lived, unreliable & germination rates are often low, the parsnip is among the easiest crops to store & can be left in the ground right through winter, leaving the fattest sweetest parsnips to be eaten in Spring.

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