Extending the Vegetable Growing Season
There’s plenty to harvest in the vegetable plot during August and there is also still time to make the most of available space by extending sowing and planting times for a longer growing season.
Fast maturing salad crops such as summer lettuce, rocket, sorrel, chicory and radish can all be sown in August. Lettuce do not like high temperatures so make sure there is ample shade where they are to be grown. You don’t need a huge garden or allotment to grow some delicious salad crops as they can easily be fitted into much smaller spaces in pots, grow bags or any other suitable containers. Spring onions can also be sown until September and are ready to harvest in around eight weeks.
Hardy winter spinach cultivars can be sown in August and September in a sunny position. Thin the seedlings out when they are large enough to handle and then harvest every alternate plant to use in the kitchen when ready. This will give the rest of the plants room to grow. Keep the spinach plants well watered during dry spells for the rest of the summer and protect from frosts from October onwards by covering with cloches or fleece. As well as being tasty and nutritious spinach is also easy to grow all year round.
Sow oriental vegetable including mizuna and mibuna which can be harvested all year round from repeated sowings as cut-and-come-again by picking a few outer leaves at a time from each plant. This allows the plants to continue growing and you can get up to five pickings in this way. Alternatively, the whole rosettes can be harvested from about six to eight weeks from sowing. Both mizuna and mibuna prefer some shade in summer and are tolerant of cool, damp conditions. They do best in moist soil as dry conditions can cause the plants to bolt prematurely. Both will grow well into winter and can be harvested through to the following spring with some frost protection.
Maincrop turnip varieties can be sown up to mid August to harvest in autumn and winter. Plant in an open, sunny position in cool, moisture-retentive soil where they will quickly grow. Young turnip roots can be eaten raw or cooked. They are delicious roasted or added to stews. The leaves are very nutritious and can be served raw in salads when young and can also be steamed, sauteed or boiled and prepared in the same way as spinach.
Spring cabbage seeds are most reliable when sown under cover into modules, but outdoor sowing can also work. When planting out in their final position, set them deep enough for soil to cover the stems, which helps them to resist gales and frost. Sow in mid-August outdoors, or late August in module trays indoors; harvest greens in March, hearts in April.
Green manures such as crimson clover and Italian ryegrass can also be sown now to act as a soil improver and cover bare areas. When dug in, they conserve nutrients and improve soil texture.
Look out too for our range of autumn/winter vegetable plants available here at Poplar from week commencing Monday 16th August, but please note that this selection is subject to availability at the time:
Brocilli Sweet Stem
Carrot Baby Round
Lettuce Lolla Rossa
Pak Choi White
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Available week commencing 23rd August:
Finally, don’t forget that you can plant seed potatoes now for winter and Christmas cropping.