HERE'S our October blog by allotment gardener Sean O'Dobhain from Cwmbran.


THE lovely weather of late September lulled me into a false sense of summer just ‘slipping away’ when, in reality, we were all on borrowed meteorological time. Autumn has now shown her true colours, literally and figuratively, with much cooler temperatures, rain and strong winds.

In between the showers and unpredictable weather, I’ve been dropping by the plot to do a few bits and pieces. A key signifier that the growing season has ended is the ritual dismantling of the runner bean poles. The foliage was beginning to turn yellow and there were only a few forlorn beans left so, it was time for them to come down. I find this a bit sad as the plot looks bare without them. The canes are now stored and the bean vines added to the compost bin - all done for another year.

I’ve been checking my Musselburgh leeks weekly for leek moth and allium leaf miner. Both these pests have increased in recent years to the point where leeks only thrive on my site when protected by enviro-mesh or horticultural fleece. Thankfully, by early to mid- November, the threat is over and the mesh can come off allowing the plants to benefit from a little extra light during the shorter days.

I sowed my Musselburgh leeks in a tray at the start of February and they were planted out in early July – quite a long process but, leeks are worth it. It’s still a thrill to dig up my first leeks at this time of year and the plants will continue to stand well through the wet and cold of winter when there is little to take from the plot except brassicas.

The Gladiator F1 parsnips and the Sweet Candle F1 carrots have been a success this season. To overcome my stony clay soil, I sowed them in holes made by wiggling a bar into the ground. The holes were back-filled with a mixture of compost and sand. I’ll admit I was delighted when I wrestled my first crops out of the ground. Proper carrots and parsnips at last!

The last thing to mention this time of year are pumpkins of course. There are a few varieties to try depending on what you want to achieve – Atlantic Giant if you want to try and grow a mammoth squash to wow at your local show or, at the other end of the scale, the small and neat Mars F1, ideal for roasting. I grew a medium sized pumpkin, a variety called Jack O’Lantern – and that’s exactly what my pumpkins will become on Halloween.

Other allotment jobs now:

• Finish clearing the spent crops from the greenhouse like peppers, cucumbers and tomato plants.

• The greenhouse usually needs a bit of a clean up; stack pots and seed trays for next season. If you’ve had a pest problem, consider using an appropriate disinfectant or sulphur candle.

• Regularly check stored produce like potatoes, carrots, apples, onions and squashes ensuring you remove any that are rotten or are going soft.

• Remove protective nets and fleece from bassicas and leeks, the threat is over now and plants will benefit from some extra light in the darker days of autumn and winter.

• Store your bamboo canes off the ground where possible to stop them rotting.

• Keep weeding, clearing and roughly digging over your plot when the ground conditions allow.

• Take the opportunity to burn diseased plants and thicker stems. Add the ash to the compost bins.