• Maureen Little

This Month in the Garden - incorporating Wine of the Month - October 2020


Welcome to October in the Garden.

We are truly into autumn now. The mists and mellow fruitfulness of John Keats’s Autumn is slowly but surely entering into a different phase – more like dew, cobwebs and the threat of the first frost. Each season and month has its jobs to do, however, so let’s look now at some of them.


First, FLOWERS.

There is still time to collect seeds from summer-flowering plants. Make sure they are completely dry before storing them in a paper bag ready to sow next spring.

If you have sowed some hardy annual seeds, the resulting plants should now be ready to plant outside. And don’t forget to plant out any biennials too.

Talking of sowing, sweet pea seeds can be sown now, although personally I have never seen any great advantage. I tend to sow mine in spring, but many swear by sowing them now to get a head start.

Now is definitely the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Click here to have a look at my blog post about which bulbs are best for bees. Leave tulips until later in the autumn, though.

You might also like to incorporate some bulbs in your container planting for winter into spring.

Bring your pelargoniums and other tender perennials under cover to avoid any early frosts. Cut them back and keep them in a frost-free place over winter.

Now is a good time to divide any clumps of perennials that have become congested or have become tired in the middle. Split them into smaller chunks, retaining a good root system on each piece, and either replant them or pot them up to give away to friends or neighbours.

Once they’ve finished flowering you can also start pruning climbing roses. Cut back any dead or diseased stems to a healthy bud, or to the ground if necessary. Also cut back any side shoots by about two-thirds and tie them in to the framework. Tie in any other stems to make sure they aren’t damaged by wind.

We’re also coming into the beginning of the ‘bare-root’ season, so make sure you have the ground ready for any shrubs (including roses) or trees that you have already ordered.



Next VEGETABLES

You will have harvested all your beans and peas by now, so cut back the top growth to soil level and add it to the compost heap, or put it in your green bin. Don’t remove the roots, though: you can dig these into the soil to provide extra nitrogen for subsequent crops.

Also cut back any asparagus foliage and the top growth of Jerusalem artichokes, and tidy up any dying top growth of other perennial vegetables, such as globe artichokes.

Keep an eye on any brassicas that you have: make sure Brussels sprouts have been planted firmly - any wind-rock can be detrimental; and remove any yellow leaves which may decay and harbour disease.

If your leeks are varieties which require earthing up to blanch the stems, start doing that when they have reached an adequate size.

You can start planting onions sets, shallots and garlic now. There is a saying, however, that you should plant garlic on the shortest day, and harvest it on the longest. Garlic requires a period of cold in order for the growing bulbs to ‘break’ and form cloves.


Harvest: kale, carrots, Maincrop potatoes, beetroot, celeriac, rocket, salad leaves, chard, spinach, Florence fennel, pumpkins and squash

FRUIT now

Cut back blackberry canes – the ones that have already borne fruit – and tie in the new canes ready for next year’s crop.

Plant a fruit tree – we’re coming into the bare-root season, so this is a good time to get planting.

Harvest: apples, pears, quince, pears, nuts.


Last but not least, OTHER JOBS

Continue to collect up any leaves, especially from the lawn, to make leaf mould.

Assess your lawn and, if necessary, aerate and feed. Prepare for the final cut of the year – the soil temperature needs to be at least between 8-10 ̊ C or higher for established grass to grow.

Containers that are not frost-proof should either be brought under cover or wrapped with fleece or hessian.

Turn your compost heap(s).

Continue feeding the birds. Establishing a routine now will get them used to where they can find food over the winter months.


If you are thinking about having a bonfire please, please check that there are no hibernating hedgehogs in it. We need these lovely creatures to get rid of pests.


After all those jobs, let’s relax now with my Wine of the Month from The Wine Shed (click here to go to their website).

This month I'm featuring a 2015 Blaufränkisch from Weingut Heinrich in Austria. I tasted this with my colleagues on the Ribble FM Food and Drink Show (to listen again click here to go to the website) with, believe it or not, cheese and onion pie. Yes, seriously. To say it was a challenge to find a wine to match with that was an understatement – but, it worked!

I was told that the cheese in the pie would be a strong, mature Cheddar so I figured I’d have to find an equally robust wine to stand up to the flavour. Which more or less ruled out a white or rose wine. I needed a red. After a chat with Nuala, the owner of the Wine Shed, we plumped for the Blaufränkisch.


Austria probably isn’t the first country that springs to mind if you’re thinking about a red wine - and Blaufränkisch doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue – but this wine is a revelation. It’s been likened to a robust Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, and with its flavours of cherries and plums with hints of spice and a faint whisper of woodsmoke I can see where the comparison comes from. And the vivid acidity and not-too-vigorous tannins are the perfect foil for the richness of the cheese in the pie.


Weingut Heinrich is run on bio-dynamic lines – organic +, if you like – so not only are the vineyards carefully tended according to strict procedures, this philosophy extends into the winery too. Working in harmony with what nature has provided results in a non-interventionist approach which extends as far as using only natural yeasts present on the grapes for fermentation – no added yeast is used.

This wine really is a labour of love – and you would probably expect a price to reflect it. But no, this wine retails at £18.95.


So sit back and enjoy – with or without a cheese and onion pie!

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