One man and his organic plot enjoys the harvest festival

  • Last updated: 7 October 2022
Our head of horticulture Chris Collins soaks up the autumn harvest and colours in his allotment and balcony garden.
Chris's balcony garden
Chris's balcony is still blooming this autumn

The big Tilia tree outside my home is showing its first flicks of bright yellow and the air has suddenly taken on that fresh feeling. We’re well and truly into the start of autumn. A change of season is always an emotional time for a gardener. We both reflect and look forward, but we also enjoy - it’s integral to the kind of people we are.

It’s been a tough year for a lot of plants, particularly young trees. The heat has been challenging, so I don't begrudge them their winter sleep and intend to fully enjoy both the autumn colour and their winter silhouettes.

Autumn and winter pickings

My gardening spaces are also looking different. Many allotment crops are concluding, and I’m enjoying the last pickings. One plant that stands out is my grapevine. I inherited this when I took over the allotment, so I’m unsure about the variety, but it’s produced a huge amount of fruit. These have been picked and mixed with allotment apples and used to make crumbles that taste delicious and match the changing season. But they’re probably not too good for the waistline!

My brassicas have perked up now the weather is cooler, and I’ve a steady supply of red cabbage and wonderfully tasty turnips, leeks and potatoes. These and the parsnips will stay in the ground and be grazed on, but much of the rest the allotment will be landscaped. The wood structures need replacement and crops such as strawberries need lifting and dividing. I’ll also be rebuilding my compost bins, adding an extra one for leaf mould collections.

Bright and beautiful balcony

The balcony is still a riot of colour, and this is testament to how mild my south-facing London balcony is. Bedding plants are full of colour, defying the time of year and I cropped the last of the aubergines and tomatoes at the weekend. I’ve also managed to acquire a huge number of chillies, a plant that enjoyed our hot summer.

The big changeover is coming, however, as my organic bulbs arrive this month. The baskets and pots will be emptied, and their contents added to the compost bin. It’s slightly sad to see them go as it’s been a great display this year but the change, like the seasons, is always exciting.

Planting bareroots

Other jobs I will be looking to get stuck into this October is planting. As the soil is still warm this is easily the best time to plant, allowing the roots to develop over the dormant season and giving them a strong start next spring. Bareroot planting, particularly of trees, is a great low-carbon way to plant. They tend to be locally grown and relatively inexpensive. This is also a good time of year to visit some of the country’s great gardens and arboretums to make the most of this autumn colour and get inspired.

Until the next time, happy gardening!

Chris Collins, Head of Horticulture