By KG Reader Peter Dean
Autumn is a time of natural beauty as colours of red, orange, yellow and brown adorn trees in our gardens and public spaces. These leaves gently tumble to the ground and crunch underfoot.
Autumn crocus pushes up through the soil, showing its thin, naked, purple petals and gold stamens. While cone flowers, verbena and asters provide the dwindling sources of pollen for insects. Bees welcome this pollen, and the flowers’ nectar. Their hives are full of honey, as the main foraging time comes to an end.
Fruit trees produce ripe apples, pears and stone fruit. There are autumn raspberries to pick, and blackberries in the dewy hedgerows. Squirrels and birds feast on these blackberries ready for the cold of the coming winter.
Apples and pears can be eaten, or made into juice, cider, perry, or just stored in frost free boxes to be used later. Stonefruit such as plums, damsons and gages all make tasty pies; a warming treat as the daylight hours shorten and the temperature outside falls. They can also be bottled and cooked gently in the oven in sterilized Kilner jars, saving them for another season.
Runner beans are now at the end of their growth time. So they can be pulled up and composted on the compost heap or put in the green bin. Store away the support canes for next year.
A glut of runner beans can be frozen. This is easy. First shave off any stringy sides, cut into small lengths, boil for five minutes and put in a freezer bag before allowing to cool and transfer to the freezer for later.
Maincrop potatoes are harvested in September and October. These crops form the mainstay of winter and spring carbohydrates in many British meals. They are used for mash, roasties, boiled or chipped potatoes. They can be stored in paper or hessian sacks in a dark, cool shed or garage.
Cut the last of your hedges, ready for winter dormancy. Lawns too, can be mowed for the last times in October, when frosts are prevalent and grass growth ends. An application of autumn lawn fertiliser will be beneficial, as will spiking the grass to improve drainage.
In the greenhouse, now is the time to pick remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies and aubergines. Then remove the plants and compost them. Tidy up any leaf debris so that diseases won’t overwinter. Empty spent compost from growing bags and pots onto the main garden. The nutrients will have gone but it will act as a good soil conditioner.
As for the trees that are shedding their leaves – once they have fallen, rake them off the lawn and paths and collect in bin bags to make leaf mould. The leaves will break down slowly in the bags and form a great soil mulch and addition to peat-free compost. It will take over a year but it is well worth the wait.
Autumn colours remind us what nature can do. And right in our gardens and parks. Vivid red and orange, yellow and brown transform the usual leaf greens. This is triggered by the cooler temperatures.
It is a special time of change in the yearly calendar – a time of mist, harvest and frost: a time to be cherished.
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