Although the weather hasn’t been exactly perfect this year, August and September are the months when the effort you put in back in the cold Spring months finally pay off and you are rewarded with a feast of home grown goodies.
It is however important to know how to store many of these correctly to ensure that they see us through the cold (but hopefully not as cold as last year) winter months.
Take for example carrots. These should ideally be lifted, especially if they are in heavy clay soils to stop the slugs, frost and damp getting to them, and stored in sand in a cool, dark garage or shed. Then there are beans and peas, which you can continue to pick, ideally at a young stage to ensure they are tender, until the first frosts and freeze. Lift onions when their tops droop, and leave to dry in a well ventilated area, then plait or group them for hanging in the kitchen.
My main tip for successful storage of fruit and vegetables it to keep in a cool, dark place away from the chance of frost damage, with good air circulation to stop it rotting. Alternatively why not make chutneys and pickles, which double up as an ideal homemade Christmas present.
However, this is also a time to be thinking about next year and even the next few months. Early onion sets can be planted now; a personal favorite being a Japanese variety ‘Senshu’. This variety has shown success in overwintering in cold winters and should be ready to harvest next May or June depending on conditions. It is also a perfect time to be growing winter vegetables such as ‘Winter Density’ Lettuce and ‘Aquadulce’ Broad Beans to name just two.
There are also other general gardening jobs to be done to prepare for next year. It is a perfect time to divide and replant clumps of established perennials, as well as reseeding patched in lawns, or laying down new turf. Take time to consider which tender plants you will protect this winter and check your heaters work now.
As the leaves fall from the trees, rake them and use them to mulch borders, but not before you have selected new Spring bulbs to plant. Bulbs for next Spring are available from late August and include tulips, snowdrops and of course daffodils, the ultimate sign that the cold winter is over!
Finally add a splash of colour to your borders for the winter by changing summer bedding for winter pansies, violas and hardy cyclamen.