Three brief pointers about autumnal tasks this month.
If you are lucky enough to have your own apple trees, apple picking mainly runs through October and November. Don’t pick them too early. The tree will tell you when the apples are ripe for picking. If the tree doesn’t seem to want to let go of the apples, you are picking too soon!
To test an apple’s readiness for picking, just lift it up gently from the branch, giving it a gentle twist of a quarter of a turn as you lift it. If the apple comes away in your hand, it is ripe for picking. If it doesn’t, then leave it for a week then try again.
Windfalls on the floor can be a useful sign that the apples might be ready. All the apples on the tree won’t be ready to pick at the same time, so test their readiness every week until you have picked them all.
Bear in mind that some varieties of apple should be stored after picking and won’t be ready to eat straight away. Search on Google for “storing apples” and the name of your apple variety to check this…but if they taste delicious straight away, obviously no need to store them!.
Next… the best time to plant most types of garlic is November, so make sure that you buy it this month before it’s all gone. The cheapest option is to buy planting garlic from Wilkinsons (£2 for 3 bulbs), or you can buy from the Isle of Wight Garlic stall at Stroud farmers market. This has a great selection of varieties, but they are not cheap, at £3 per bulb. If you grew your own garlic last year, you can also plant some of your best saved cloves. It’s best not to plant bought “eating garlic”, as it will most likely have been grown in a warmer climate so won’t be a variety suitable for UK growing.
I’ll be planting some Solent Wight from the farmers market, some Casablanca from Wilkinsons, and some of my saved home-grown garlic cloves. It’s always interesting to compare the results (and too easy to forget the varieties that you bought last year… so this year I’m making better labels for them).
Finally, I’m working on a big woodwork project at the moment, and I’ll use some of the leftover wood to make a hedgehog nesting box. Hedgehogs hibernate in about December, so now is a good time to buy or build a nesting box for them. They need all the help and encouragement you can give them, as they are declining nationally and are fairly rare in Stroud.
If you want to build a hedgehog nesting box, you’ll find lots of plans online, including this simple design courtesy of Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital which is what I plan to make. If you’d prefer to buy a ready-made hedgehog nesting box, you can order a locally-made one from the Stroud Valleys Project ( 01453 753358) for £25-£30.
You can also improvise a one-season nesting box by cutting a doorway in a stout cardboard box, covering the top with some plastic sheet, and partly burying it in a pile of leaves or debris in a sheltered spot in the garden, with just the doorway side showing.