-September in the Vegetable Garden by Geoff Hodge of MiracleGro

vegetables

The daily pickings are the rewards for the seasons care and diligence
The daily pickings are the rewards for the seasons care and diligence

Harvest time is here. As we move into autumn, temperatures start to drop and there’s always the chance of an early frost. Although there’s a risk of severe rainfall this month, there is conversely the possibility of lovely sunny weather – even an Indian summer heat wave! Keep an eye on the weather and treat your plants accordingly, watering wherever necessary in dry conditions.

Vegetables

Although the main vegetable seed sowing season has now passed, there’s still time to sow overwintering turnip, spinach, Oriental vegetables and overwintering onions.

In colder regions or for a quicker harvest, sow them in pots or cell trays of Levington Original Multi Purpose Compost or Levington Seed & Cutting Compost in a cold greenhouse or cold frame and grow on and plant out the young plants.

You can plant overwintering onion sets to provide an early crop next year.

Continue to feed tomatoes still in crop with Tomorite – as the days shorten, this liquid feed can be invaluable in helping ripen the last fruits of the season. This high potassium plant food will also speed up the ripening of sweet peppers, chillies and aubergines.

Maincrop potatoes should be ready to harvest when the top growth starts to die down and has turned brown. Cut off the dead stem and then leave for 10 days before starting to dig up the tubers. When they are all on the surface, leave for a couple of hours or so for the skins to set and then sort according to their storage potential. Perfect tubers can be stored in hessian sacks, paper bags or dry cardboard boxes for storage in a well-ventilated frost-free shed. Any potatoes that show damage, blemish or slug holes should be used in the kitchen as soon as possible.

Topical tip

Sow some winter lettuce, such as ‘Winter Density’, that can be grown outdoors with some protection from severe weather, or Salad Bowl types, non-hearting, cut-and-come-again varieties that can even be grown in pots on the kitchen windowsill.

Fruit

Now’s the perfect time to be ordering and planting all new fruit trees, bushes and canes. The soil will still be quite warm, and the roots will benefit from this warmth. This is particularly important for peaches and nectarines. Other fruit trees may have a higher tolerance of cold at the roots, and can be planted later in autumn if necessary.

Make sure the soil is well prepared with plenty of organic matter, so dig in plenty of organic matter, such as Levington Organic Blend Soil Conditioner or Levington Organic Blend Farmyard Manure, and add Miracle-Gro Bone Meal Natural Root Builder to help improve root growth and establishment.

Always plant at the same depth that the plant was originally growing and firm the soil around the roots.

Trees will need to be staked with a good tree stake and secured with two tree ties.

After planting, give the plants a good soaking to settle the soil and roots and to ensure fast establishment. Mulch the soil with a 7.5-10cm (3-4in) thick layer of Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Decorative Pine Bark or Levington Water Saving Decorative Bark, which will help retain moisture around the roots as well as keeping weeds away.

Regularly pick all fruit as it becomes ready. Don’t leave it on the tree or bush to become over-ripe but, at the same time, don’t pick too early or the full flavour won’t have developed. Most fruit is ready when it comes away easily in the hand.

Apples and pears are generally ready to pick when they readily part from the tree when lifted gently in the palm and given a slight twist. Pears are best picked when slightly immature. They should then be left a couple of days at room temperature to reach full maturity. Eat bruised and damaged fruit first.

Topical tip

Cut out the old, fruited canes of summer raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries after fruiting and tie in new ones that will fruit next year. Cut out weak, forked or misplaced canes.



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