Harvest late summer crops

So now that the summer is drawing to a close what can you do to make the most of what’s left? Here are some valuable pointers, tips and advice from Pippa Greenwood.

Courgettes are still cropping. Image: Martin Mulchinock
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What a year – all extremes and not much in the way of a normal summer, so the chances are that, like me and many others, you’ve been more than a bit disappointed in the results from your veg plot!

Keep picking runner beans and you'll keep getting more beans. Image: Martin Mulchinock
Keep picking runner beans and you’ll keep getting more beans. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Peas and beans

With any of the legume family, which includes all the peas and beans it is essential that you keep them well watered (even if the weather is more gusty than baking hot) as dryness will stop late pods forming and reduce the size and quality of those pods, which have already formed. Regular picking, even though the number of beans forming is much lower now, is essential if the plants are to continue being useful until the last minute. 

Courgettes

Courgettes may still continue cropping well for a good while yet, especially if you are growing some of those super sturdy Italian varieties, but it is essential that these too are always moist at the roots or you’ll get a plethora of male flowers and few females.  

If conditions are damp where you are, then watch out for young fruits rotting – I always twist off the flowers as soon as the fruits are a couple of inches long, this invariably stops the rot. Mildew is invariably a problem by this stage in the year and if you can catch it early it really pays to cut off the leaves that are showing the classic symptoms of white powdery fungal growth.  Avoiding wetting the leaves will also help; so when you’re watering always direct the end of the watering can right at the base of the plant.

Things to sow now

A late sowing of rocket means you'll be picking well into autumn. Image: Martin Mulchinock
A late sowing of rocket means you’ll be picking well into autumn. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Don’t feel it is too late to sow anything; it really isn’t, especially if you are happy to take a few risks.  There are some risks I feel are almost always worth taking and sowing a few seeds in the hope of something useful, is one risk that costs so little and can yield a lot.

So why not make sowings of salads such as radish, rocket and all the various lettuces? The outlay will be a matter of pence if you use standard, non-fancy varieties and if you combine it with some sowings of spinach and beetroot (grown just for the tender young leaves) you can have some wonderful salads throughout much of autumn. Oriental vegetables such as mizuna and Pak Choi are seriously speedy growers too and will be up and cropping before you know it.  Having some fleece or micromesh-covered pullout tunnels to hand will allow you to provide protection when temperatures do start to drop towards the end of autumn.

Plants from Pippa

Why keep your veg plot vacant over the winter months? There are plenty of young veg plants which can go into areas recently vacated by summer vegetables and, by using these you’ll not only give yourself some gorgeous vegetables to enjoy that bit earlier next spring and summer but even have some which can be harvested before you’re even planting out your summer veg!

A visit to www.pippagreenwood.com/grow-your-own will give you the chance to treat yourself to my ‘Winter thru Spring Collection’ of September planting vegetables.  These include purple sprouting broccoli, tatsoi, Hispi cabbage, spring onions, broadbeans, radicchio and Japanese onions.  They’re all grown especially for me in Lincolnshire and will be delivered in early September, so hurry! You’ll also receive monthly emails from me with tips and advice for getting the best possible results from your vegetable collection. If you quote this code 12445-ISEPQ when you purchase your veg collection from me you’ll get 10% discount on the vegetables and any other purchase you make at the time…. so you could also invest in some cloches and crop covers too!

Pippa Greenwood

About Pippa Greenwood

Pippa’s gardening passions include grow your own and the things gardeners hate most – pests and diseases! She gives many gardening talks and worked for the RHS for years, spent 13 years as a presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World and since 1995 has been a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. She was also the gardening advisor for the murder-mystery series, Rosemary & Thyme. Vist Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com for gorgeous vegetable plants with advice from Pippa, pest controls and more
@PippaGreenwood
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