If you thought that nothing much happens in the garden during October except clearing leaves and digging over your veggie plot, you’d be wrong. October is the final chance before winter for harvesting your last crops of fruit and vegetables, and getting your timing right is vital for achieving ultimate flavour and good storage.
Most varieties of apples and pears will be ready to pick during this month, when the fruit has swelled up and is rich in colour. You may notice a few have fallen on the ground under your tree, but you’ll know for certain when you gently lift and twist one. If they come away easily from the tree with the stalk intact, you know it’s time.
While quinces and medlars are not commonly grown, crops will be ready in autumn. When quince fruits turn from pale yellow to a golden colour and are highly aromatic, you can collect them. Medlars should be gathered when the stalks separate effortlessly from the tree, but providing there’s no risk of frost, you can leave them until late October to develop their flavour.
If you have autumn raspberries, you’ll already know that the crop is usually plentiful and they’re less likely to be blighted by the dreaded summer raspberry beetle. They’ll be ripe for picking when they’re a good size and, as with most fruit, the obvious test is to taste them first to check if they’re full of flavour.
Pumpkins and squashes are essential favourites for harvesting in October, when their colours change to deep oranges. When the stem is split, the skin is hard and they have a hollow sound when you knock them, then they’re perfect for gathering. Look out for grey mould or rot and always leave a couple of inches on the stem if you’re planning to store them through winter.
Carrots come in all shapes and sizes, so depending on the variety, they’ll be ready for harvesting when large enough to pick. On average, when the roots are half an inch wide, they will be sweet enough to use. Instead of yanking them up by the roots, push away the soil to loosen it and then tease out the carrot.
Although some late crop potatoes can be harvested before October, the main crop for decent sized spuds should be left in the ground until the foliage turns brown and stems have withered. Once foliage dies back, they won’t grow any bigger so this is the best time to dig them out.
To harvest beetroot in October, the roots should roughly the size of a tennis ball, but you can also dig them out when smaller. To pull them from the ground, hold the tops and lever them out, cutting the leaves off a couple of inches above, to ensure they’ll stay fresh and not bleed.
With all fruit and vegetables, make sure you only pick undamaged produce to get a good quality crop. After all your hard work, the only thing left to do is to kick back and enjoy the rewards of your labour.