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STAKE 4: Autumn/winter plot preparing for next year.

29th October 2023


You want your ground cleared of weeds (and ideally weed seeds) refreshed with organic material, protected from rainfall/ wind/ frost damage and ready to plant April on so as the weather warms and seeds grow you can plant them out easily and quickly. December through March it’s often too wet or cold to do much. So you need to have the plot prepared before then.


October/November review plot layout and modify or change structures:

Move grape supports, compost heaps, transplanting and move raspberries, split and move rhubarb, plant asparagus, plant Jerusalem artichokes etc)


Organic material: An essential component of healthy soil to give good crops: -


1. Compost: This can be applied as compost/leaves as a surface mulch or dug in.


Ideally you don’t want material on the surface that contains weed seeds. So use a Hot Green/Brown compost system that kills seeds, or use Leaf mould, or cold green/brown compost made without using any seeding weeds.


If you have concerns about seeds, weed roots etc in the compost you are using (eg from a communal cold green / brown heap) then you may choose to bury it in trenches, or below other material that you have less concerns about seed content such as existing top soil.


If you are no-dig* you could apply a seed free/low seed compost mulch over a weed free plot, or if you have some weeds a layer of cardboard then a compost/ leaf mould mulch.


2. Green Mulches: If using ‘Green Manure’ plant it in late summer to overwinter and smother weeds. This will provide organic matter in spring that can be dug in, chopped and dropped (or killed by the frosts), or chopped and fed into compost systems. Alyssum, Clover, Phacelia, Mustard and Field beans all have been grown successfully for this purpose on site.


Weeds control


Summer: if you can, don’t let weeds seed in mid to late summer, keep them down with frequent hoeing; otherwise be prepared for lots of weed control actions in the spring.



In Autumn: If digging* you can dig out the bed and existing weeds. Experience says though that in the spring you are likely to need to re dig to remove newly growing weeds, or use hoeing to kill weeds when they are small.


If no digging* Autumn Mulch as described above for organic material addition suppresses weeds. If using green mulches as described above under organic material addition then they also suppress weeds.




Surface sheets on beds over the winter: Cardboard covered with mulch works well for weed suppression and soil protection. Porous sheets covered with mulch also protect the soil and smother weeds.


There is fair site evidence now that just spreading sheets or carpet without mulch on top encourages bind weed to spread below it.



Good crops: These depend what your criteria are: -


Really good fresh and/or expensive to buy?


Raspberries

Blackcurrants

Redcurrants

Lettuce

Chard

Asparagus

Sweetcorn


Tomatoes are great fresh but losses of 50% due to blight on tomatoes grown in the open are common particularly in damp years. In damp years people report greater success at home on sheltered patio areas or in poly tunnels on site.


Broad beans can be sown Oct Nov; Aquadulce or other autumn variety. You will probably loose 50% due to snow frost, then plant a spring variant in Feb filling in any gaps. A good way to use space in the winter.


Unusual crops potentially not easily available as shop crops:


Jerusalem artichokes. Tim and Liz on lot 31w will have some spare for planting for 2024 if anyone is interested. 07771811986

Chillies Varieties (Choose your heat level and appearance!)

Chard (Best eaten/cooked fresh as they don’t store well)

Heritage varieties: apples / pears

Unusual potatoes such as Pink Fir and Ratte with distinctive flavours. The cheapest way is to go to Aylets or another garden centre week 2 Jan and get a self-selected bag.


Other comments on crops that many of us grow:-


Leeks and carrots need fine, mesh netting protection from planting. Leeks now seem to be being attacked far more by the leek moth and (Allium) leek fly that are around in particular in May and Sept.

Beetroot (plant in groups 3 seem to do better despite impact of crowding each other

Pak Choi: lots of things like eating this. So far it seems best as a sacrificial plant to protect other crops!

Garlic grows well.

Cucumbers have been successful on many plots recently Marketmore 76 works well. This is both outside in sunny positions, (including in pots) or Polly tunnels. They do need lots of water.

Gherkins in pots have been reported to work well.


There are many other crops to try of course, do experiment and let us know what works for you.


*For the pros and cons of dig and no dig see the FLAG website under growing tips under zero dig.

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