By September the main vegetable growing season is coming to an end, and the majority of crops are ready for harvest. This means that plenty of gaps open up in the beds giving new opportunities for growing.
You may think it is too late in the year for seed sowing as there is not enough time left for crops to reach maturity. However, a small handful of useful plants can be started off now to accompany the traditional winter veg such as leeks, parsnips, kale and Brussels sprouts through the harsher weather to come.
So, over the last couple of weeks I have been busy sowing mizuna & mibuna, along with spinach, endive, claytonia, pak choi, chard and corn salad - you could also try some mustard leaves. If sown now, all of these will happily overwinter in a semi-mature state, providing a small but regular crop of fresh, home grown salad leaves to liven up winter meals.
What’s more, they all have slightly differing tastes and textures, so planting a selection and mixing and matching will help keep things interesting. I’m sure our restaurant will be only too happy to make use of the RHS Garden Hyde Hall crop.
All of these plants can be sown directly into the ground now, as soil temperatures are still warm enough for germination. That said, I like to start mine off under glass in module trays, allowing me to plant out well-established plants at their final spacings - removing the need for thinning. This is useful if you only want a few plants growing in containers.
Growth will be slow but steady through the autumn months, when a few leaves can be removed from each plant every week or so. Only in the very coldest, harshest winter months of January and February will growth come to a relative standstill, which is when you may consider giving them a covering of fleece during the nights to help them along (I will certainly be doing this at Hyde Hall, where the veg plots are particularly exposed to bad weather). But as spring arrives they will burst into life again providing plentiful pickings before eventually running to seed.
Regular readers of this blog will know that each year I grow a huge selection of pumpkins, squashes and gourds that are displayed every autumn. This year the display will be put together for Woodfest on the 10-11 October. Make sure you come along and pay us a visit, as my ‘secret’ pumpkin patch has ensured that this will be a record breaking year!
On a separate note, Brentwood Brewery will be selling Hyde Hall Ale at the event this year, having once again taken our harvest of ‘First Gold’ hops.