Growing a Greener Henley – September Sunshine

Schools are back and there’s a stillness in the air.  Autumn is on its way. For the time being we can enjoy harvesting many of the crops we planted this year. Unless of course, they’ve already been eaten by unwelcome visitors.


Down on Greencroft allotments we’ve had a bumper crop of rats this year and they’ve been enjoying our produce.  Most of my kohl rabi has been nibbled and I’ve lost all my sweet corn.  Our brilliant site manager has done some research and by making a few changes to the way we’re managing our plots, the numbers should soon return to normal.

One of the things I’ll be doing is turning my compost heap more regularly.  If most of us do this, it will reduce the number of nesting sites.  Rather than taking my last sowing of kohl rabi to the allotment, I’ll find somewhere for them in the garden.  Nature is good at balancing things out.  If the opportunities for food and nesting places drop, so will the number of rats.

Some plot holders have been luckier than others as Greener Henley members Dave and Sally report:

“Rodents have been having a great time at Greencroft this year.  We’ve been lucky.  We harvested a good crop of sweet corn before they did too much damage.  Sweet corn cooked straight after harvesting is so much better than over-travelled supermarket corn.  Sally has experimented with sweet corn fritters, Mexican corn bread and a corn stew with chorizo and orzo.  All wonderful!”

Many people around the UK have had problems with tomato and potato blight this year. The tomatoes I’ve grown at home have been OK but Dave and Sally have struggled:

“Blight often strikes in July when we get warm humid conditions.  This year it waited until August and devastated our tomatoes, moving from the leaves to stems and fruit within a few days.  You have to act quickly if you are to salvage a crop.  Remove the fruit for ripening at home or making green chutney.  The good news for us was that our potatoes were ready for harvesting and were unaffected.”

After a rough start with slugs and snails, my runner and French beans are doing well.  Next year, I’ll repeat the pattern of sowing a few seeds every few weeks – hopefully it will be a deliberate approach rather than because earlier sowings have been completely decimated.  As a result of sowing little and often, my beans have been ready for harvesting in batches – just enough at a time to have some left to share with neighbours – and all picked while young and tender.  It wasn’t the plan but it’s been a good result.

Back to Dave and Sally:

“We’ve been enjoying a runner bean glut and the main crop is now coming to an end.  We sowed some Harry Lovejoy seed in the 2nd half of June.  They will start cropping in the next few days and go on until the end of September.  We want to keep seed for next year and hope that this late sowing will give us the long, straight, flavoursome Harry Lovejoy beans that will be good for saving.”

Sowing and planting – a few ideas and things to order

  • Garlic for planting out from the end of October
  • Broad beans and peas to sow in early November.  These will be less likely to have problems with black fly than those sown in Spring.
  • Lettuces, winter leaves, chard, perpetual spinach.

Gardening for Wildlife

Since No Mow May, I’ve let one long strip of grass in my small garden continue to grow.  The idea was that it would entice the Common Field Grasshoppers away from the grass by my front door.  I don’t mind them being there but they tend to hop in for a look around whenever the front door is open. It hasn’t worked.  I’m still scooping them up from the hall floor and putting them back outside.  I had a look at the BBOWT website to see if there’s an explanation.  Apparently, they appear from June to late autumn and like open, sunny patches of grass.  That explains it.  From the summer equinox onwards, my strip of long grass becomes increasingly shady.  No wonder they’ve ignored it!

Great Big Green Week

18th – 26th September. There’s lots happening.  Plenty of information up around the town.

Top tips from the allotments (with thanks to Andrew)

  • Keep harvesting
  • Prune summer fruiting raspberries
  • Start to prune blackcurrants – take out 1/3 of stems to ground level
  • Cut out old stems on blackberries when they’ve finished fruiting and tie in new stems
  • Keep hoeing
  • Continue planting leeks
  • Plant out new strawberry plants. Andrew makes a new row every year and digs up the oldest row.
  • Cut out unwanted strawberry runners
  • Dig up onions and dry them ready to store.
  • Enjoy your gardening and eating your produce.