With the winter leek and onion sets planted out, the next few weeks are about tidying up the garden (deadheading, weeding and clearing away the last remnants of the summer crops), saving any seeds you may want for next year, harvesting any orchard crops such as apples, pears, plums and nuts, digging over and putting back lost nutrients, and planning for spring.
Now is the time you should be thinking of sowing spring cabbage, early broad beans, peas and pea shoots, asparagus, garlic, spring onions and shallots, winter lettuce and spinach.
Sue says: “There is a good range that can be sown up until the end of October. Keeping your garden going through the winter gives you something to look forward to come the spring and is a good excuse to get fresh air and exercise on even the coldest days.”
Autumn is also a source of free compost. Falling leaves are in abundant supply and can be easily recycled and turned into mulch, as Sue explains. “Collect the fallen leaves, put them in black bin bags, stab a few holes in the sacks and sprinkle with water before tying tight.
“Leave the bags in a shady but unobtrusive place where they will get rained on, and by the following autumn the leaves should have rotted down into a rich, crumbly mixture that can be used as a mulch around the base of plants.
“If you let the leaves rot down for another year you will have a fantastic soil conditioner. Some leaves will take longer than others to rot down, but it is such an easy way to make your own free, clean, easy to handle and green (as in environmentally aware) compost.
“One word of warning, you must only use brown, dead leaves. Evergreens such as holly, alder and conifers won’t rot down.”
While the next few weeks are about preparing for the cold months ahead (and let’s hope they aren’t as harsh as the last couple of years), Sue maintains there is much to look forward to still.
The nights may be drawing in, but she says the glorious autumnal colours often coupled with unseasonably warm weather, are a wonderful counterpoint to the inevitably curtailed days in the garden and the light tipping away.
See The Journal allotment at Gibside, near Rowlands Gill, Burnopfield, Gateshead, NE16 6BG, 01207 541 820, www.national trust.org.uk /gibside. Open daily 10am-6pm.