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This month in the garden - 2021

October in the Garden

October and the transition from summer garden to winter garden is almost complete. Nearly all the tomatoes are finished; aubergines, peppers and chillies will continue to bear fruit for a few weeks more and the last round of green beans are being harvested. Some of the earlier planted beans that survived the heat will be having a second wind and are producing another crop. Direct sow habas (broad beans), peas, garlic, radishes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot and spinach. Plant out leek and onion plantlets and continue to plant the brassica, chard and lettuce plants that were planted from seed last month. Shore the potatoes up regularly; as the leaves start to show, cover them with soil or straw leaving just the tops poking out. Continue to do this throughout the growing season. All the stems that get covered over revert to roots and give your crop a much greater yield. Plant useful companion plants now too such as marigolds and nasturtiums.

Think about your crop rotations. Different groups of crops have different nutritional requirements and to prevent the soil being drained of specific nutrients the same crop should not be grown in the same space year after year. Moving crops around also prevents the build up of pests and diseases. A simple rotation is to think about alternating a plant that grows up, such as tomatoes, with a crop that goes down, such as carrots. Another way is to alternate light feeders with heavy feeders so, for example, aubergines, with manure added to the beds can be followed by lettuce which wouldn´t need any extra fertility and would be quite happy feeding off the residue from the previous crop. More complex rotations can be planned out over a four season period. For example start with potatoes, a heavy feeder with manure added. When they are harvested plant a lighter feeder such as salad crops that will use the fertility left over from the potatoes. After that comes peas which are a leguminous crop and fix nitrogen in the soil so are beneficial to the crop that comes next. After the peas, a green manure can be planted to be dug back into the soil then go back to the beginning and add manure and another heavy feeder such as tomatoes.

Try to organise your crops into roation groups. Heavy feeders are potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, melons, squash, corn and spinach. Light feeders are carrots, parsnips, beetroot, radishes and salads. Nitrogen fixers are peas, beans, chick peas and broad beans. Brassicas like a lot of nutrition but giving them beds rich in manure will make a lot of leafy growth, which is great for kale as you are eating the leaves, but not so good for cauliflowers and brocolli as it is actually the flower head you are cultivating so you are looking for less leaf here. These crops prefer compost.

Try and make the most of your structures. If you can refashion your tomato poles to accomodate your peas it will save you the job of taking out one set of poles and assembling another. Its an extra factor to work into your rotation plan. We are very lucky to have a twelve month growing season here in Southern Spain but it doesn´t always make planning our crop rotations easy. Don´t over think it. When a crop is ready to come out and it´s not quite time for the next one on the rotation plan to go in, plant a salad crop or a green manure to fill the space until its time for the next crop. Radishes are light feeders and grow very quckly so are useful for occupying a bit of time and space. Its always useful to keep notes to see what performed well in the rotation sequence so you can look back next year when you are making your rotation plan.

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