As long as one kept the slugs at bay, growth of vegetables has been reasonably good this year.
I have harvested some good squash, larger than usual thanks to summer rains, of a variety called Uchiki Kuri, also known as Red Kuri or Sunspot. Plants are reasonably compact and the squash fruit are equivalent to Butternut in terms of flavour, sweetness and density, with one crucial difference: they mature better in cool summers! In fact I have had consistent success with them, and five failures in a row with Butternut squash.
If your squash are still unripe with soft skins and necks, and frost holds off, they can be left to grow some more until the end of October. Then cut them carefully with necks left on the fruit, and bring them indoors to mature in warm, dry air, enabling you to keep them until needed at any time in winter.
Carrots also want harvesting in October before slugs and carrot fly become too damaging, but many other vegetables can stay in the garden, such as celeriac, beetroot, parsnip, swede, leek and kale, for harvesting when needed.
This shows how compost and composted manures contain nutrients which DO NOT WASH OUT! This is really the whole point of organic growing and is often misunderstood, that when organic matter (garden wastes, animal manures, whatever) has decomposed in a heap, in the presence of bacteria and fungi, and turns into compost, the nutrients “lock in” and stay in soil until roots need them. Especially in undug soil where fungi are left intact by keeping them away from the surface air, which is partly why digging and cultivating can actually harm soil. Soil fungi such as mycorrhizae are vital for helping roots to find nutrients, and they thrive in compost fed soil.
The best jobs this autumn are clearing your plot of all weeds, then spreading some well decomposed organic matter, and it does NOT have to be broken down and certainly not sieved, because when left on top the frosts of winter serve to break up lumps, with a little help from your rake on dry days in late winter, so you have a tilth for sowing and planting into next spring. Yes, you can sow seeds and plant plants into compost and manure, just as I did with these parsnips, sown into a mulch of dark cow manure this March, with undug clay beneath.
The soil was completely undisturbed by me and, after twelve years of being left in peace and fed with organic matter, this clay (which was compacted in 1999) is full of worm channels and has a firm, open structure which plants are so happy to root into.
Extreme weeds, and slugs
If your plot is excessively weedy, I would spread some organic matter and then cover it with black plastic or cardboard, to keep light off all weeds until they have perished. Annual weeds such as chickweed, groundsel and many grasses will be gone by spring but perennials such as couch grass, buttercup and dandelion take longer to die and if using cardboard you will need another layer on top by late winter as the first one will be decomposing by then.
These surface mulches are needed only if there are more weeds than you can pull by hand. I prefer the latter so that soil is left bare of weeds and mulch (except the all important compost) over winter, because this gives less hiding places for slugs and ensures best results with spring sowings. In 2012 I lost hardly any plants to slugs because their population on my clean plot is at a low level, and sales of vegetables from the acre or so of beds are well over £20,000 this year.