Keep harvesting fresh vegetables as they become ready and eat stored vegetables. This is the end of the season for half-hardy vegetables, such as runner beans, sweet corn, marrows, courgettes, outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers. As they become spent, pull them up and set them aside for composting, remembering to exclude any that have pests and diseases.
The end of the season is a traditional time to turn out the compost heap in readiness for digging it into the vegetable plot this month. Lots of material will become available for the compost heap once the first damaging frost strikes.
Now that most of the vegetables have been harvested, the vegetable patch will be ready for digging.
If your garden is on heavy clay, try to get this deep digging done as early as you can in the winter so that the weather has the maximum amount of time in which to break down the soil before the spring activity. Leave the ground as rough as you can so that the greatest surface area is exposed to the weather. A spade is the normal tool used for digging but, on heavy land, a good fork is much easier and will do the job just as well, provided that the soil holds together.
Light, sandy land is best left until the spring before it is dug. This will help it to retain all the available moisture.
Digging to one spade's depth (called single digging) is suitable for areas that are worked every year, but for gardens that have either been neglected or which are brand new, a more effective way of bringing the soil into working order is double digging. The easiest way is to dig a trench at the start of the plot, of one spade depth, then fork the bottom of the trench to a further 25-30 cm (10-12 in) deep. Once the first trench is finished, dig the soil from the next row into the first trench and fork that one over. Carry on until the whole plot is dug, then transfer the soil that was left out from the first trench, across to the last trench. Once digging is complete, avoid walking on the dug land until you cultivate it in the spring.
If cauliflowers and celery that have not been protected from frost will need covering, protect the celery with straw or bracken, and cauliflowers by bending or breaking an outside leaf and placing it over the curd.
Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli plants will need supporting in all but the most sheltered gardens. The best method is to drive a thin stake or stout cane into the ground beside them, before tying the plants to it. Added support will be given if the cane tops are joined firmly together with a length of strong twine passing along the row.
All fallen brassica leaves and other vegetable debris should be collected regularly and composted.
Autumn broad beans such as Aquadulce, may be sown early in November. Allow 45 cm (18 in) between rows, with 12 cm (4-5 in) between seeds. They will withstand the winter as young plants and will reward you with a picking of beans two to three weeks ahead of those sown next spring.
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