This month Emma Davies, who runs the Walled Nursery in Hawkhurst with her husband Monty, is gathering her vegetable crops.
For those of us that grow our own vegetables, you’ll be in the midst of harvesting and keeping up with the fruits of your labour. We’ve finished our peas, broad beans and French beans already. Runner beans, courgettes, salad leaves and kale are being picked daily and our sweetcorn, leeks and onions are coming along nicely. But, you’re not done and dusted once you start to harvest. There are some star performers that you can sow again in late summer, some which will allow you to have another harvest in the autumn and some which will give you a head start next spring.
With kale, our favourite variety is Cavolo Nero with its textured, dark green leaves, and it can be directly sown into your veg beds now. Sow in shallow drills spacing approximately 50cm apart in the row and between rows. By sowing this leafy vegetable now, you can start harvesting early next spring, possibly even this autumn if the weather is kind. Another leafy veg to sow now using the same method is chard. We love rhubarb chard for its decorative qualities; the stems are a deep, ruby red and the veins in the leaves are luminous red on winter days, all this as well as being delicious. These plants will grow right through the winter; they are much tougher than they look.
We always sow more broad beans now – this will provide you with an early spring crop next year. Do make sure you give the plants adequate support as they’ll take a battering from our winter weather. Dwarf French beans if sown straight away should give you a quick crop in early autumn – we find that Purple Tepee is a fantastic variety, great flavour, good yield and delicious.
Lettuce leaves should be sown continuously to give you a steady supply – keep them close to your house so they’re easy to pick. Remember salad leaves are very shallow rooted so you can easily grow them in containers.
Spring cabbages can be sown in August or September for a crop in early spring. Just watch out for those cabbage white butterflies! Our spring sown cauliflowers bolted (flowered), within a month of planting out – too little water and too hot for them. I must admit, I’m not a fan of growing cauliflowers, between the caterpillars and bolting, it’s far too much work for me! But, I have left them flowering away as I’m treating them as a sacrificial plant to help deter the pests from my kale which grows next to them. So far, it seems to be working!
You can even sow some more carrots in late summer. You’ll be able to pull them up as tender (baby) carrots in autumn and there is no better vegetable to get kids hooked on gardening as pulling up carrots! Pure magic.
So, get out in your garden, get the next lot of veg sown and then get straight back to keeping on top of your harvesting! I always say, the hardest thing about growing vegetables is managing to eat everything! There’s nothing worse than wasting a crop, so if you have a glut, give some to your friends or blanch and freeze so you can enjoy your home grown veg right through the winter too.
Happy gardening! Emma