In the Vegetable Garden
You may be thinking that there is nothing more the gardener can do to squeeze anymore food out of the garden. October is not the end of the sowing season. A surprise to new gardeners is that you can still sow lettuce during this month. Try the hardy winter lettuce, Scarola Gigante Bergamo Mercurio (from Seeds of Italy at http://seedsofitaly.co.uk). I know this is an expensive lettuce but it is worth it if you blanch it two weeks before harvest. I followed the recommendation on the seed packet and pan fried it with garlic and olive oil. If you are on a budget, as we all are, grow Lettuce Valdor (from Suttons Seeds at http://www.suttons.co.uk). Valdor is tasty with tight hearts and though it is ideal to sow outside in September will still tolerate being sown in the early part of October. In both cases, when sowing, sow in a spot where there is good drainage and where the tender seedlings and lettuce will be sheltered from the worst of the weather. If you are not in a sheltered spot, try some cloches or grow in your greenhouse or under a sheet of glass. I love the look on my neighbour’s face when I walk down the path from my greenhouse in December clutching a fresh lettuce.
You will now be bringing in your pumpkins, apples and pears. In all cases discard any bruised or damaged fruit. Don’t throw them away you can make juice from apples, pears and pumpkins. I don’t rate pumpkin juice but the roasted seed from a pumpkin is heavenly. There is nothing better than adding a little chilli powder or paprika when you roast them. A pocketful of them in the winter garden will keep you warm in the worst of the weather. Anything that is truly rotten though should be sent to the compost heap and if diseased, should be burnt. The most bruised fruit can be saved with a good knife, a keen eye, and a pan. Cut out the worst, watch the knife on your thumb and cook them in batches for immediate eating or freezing. Pumpkins can have the worst of any damage cut out and then can be roasted for immediate eating. Those pumpkins that aren’t damaged can be put in your now empty greenhouse and let the autumn sun toughen up their skins before storing.
In the Flower Garden
Seed collecting time is here. I always collect seed as the plants have become hardy to our hill side and the seed they produce will be tough as old boots. I have always noticed that seed collected from the area it is to be sown in always romps away compared to seed bought in. It is also a great way to increase your stock with little effort. All you will need are some envelopes, a pen and a dry drawer to put the envelopes in. Don’t forget to date when you collected the seed and make sure that the seed heads and seed are dry. There is nothing worse than opening that drawer in spring to find mould and ruined seed. If you’re not sure, snip of the seed head with a pair of secateurs and hang upside down in a paper bag, as the seed dry they will drop out into the bag.