September 2012 Newsletter

Your fruit garden has probably been giving you copious amounts of produce lately and if you find yourself with an excess don’t give it all away, it makes sense to make the most of this bounty by freezing and preserving for use later in the year when fresh fruit is in short supply.

The interest in Pickling, Bottling and Jam and Chutney making has made a really strong come-back recently and it’s easy to see why, after all what is more satisfying than opening jar of your own chutney to enjoy with your ham and cold meat platter over Christmas? And let’s face it home-made jam is second to none for sheer fruitiness and besides as the nights draw in you need something to keep you occupied when you can’t go outside to do any weeding! Preserving will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labour even in the dark and dismal days of winter!

We have a great range of Preserving products from Freezer Boxes, Jam Jars, Large Pickle Jars, Clip Spring Storage Jars, Lids and Labels to a Complete Jam-Making Kit. We also have old fashioned Ceramic Swing Top Bottles for fruit cordials and Oil Bottles for your own delicious herb or garlic flavoured oils and vinegars - so there’s no excuse not give it a try!


Order your Autumn planting Onions, Shallots and Garlic in time for planting in October or November. We have some really great varieties and they all produce good sized bulbs with lovely plump cloves. Elephant Garlic can have individual cloves the size of many ordinary garlic bulbs! Elephant Garlic is actually a member of the leek family and has much milder flavour than regular garlic, so if you like flavour without a strong garlicky taste, this is one to go for. Delicious roasted with mixed root vegetables and a sprinkling of Rosemary or Thyme, they have a wonderfully creamy texture. Try a clove thinly sliced and added to a mixed salad or homemade coleslaw.


VegDon’t forget to order your Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia for sowing next month, this is the best autumn sowing variety to give you the earliest Broad Beans next spring. If you have a smaller garden Broad Bean The Sutton may be the best variety for you, it is more compact and can be planted closer together.  If your Runner Beans were a bit late to get going this year – as mine were- because of the inclement weather they should  still be cropping well and picking them regularly will keep them coming, pick while they are young and tender, don’t allow them to get tough and stringy.

Salad crops will still be going strong and if you are coming to the last of these and you have a bit of space, perhaps when you have lifted your potatoes, there is still time to make a late sowing of lettuce or mixed leaves while the soil is still warm. Sow winter lettuce, carrots, springs greens and broad beans under cloches or fleece for an earlier crop next spring.  Oriental vegetables such as Chinese Cabbage, Mizuna, Mustard and Pak Choy can also be sown and grown under protection now.


Young Runner BeansHarvest main crop potatoes by the end of the month, try to remove them all so you don’t get volunteer potatoes popping up next year among your beans or cabbages!. Once lifted allow them to dry on the soil surface for three or four hours to ‘set’ the skins and help prevent any bruising as they are lifted.

Check the crop and only store sound tubers any that are damaged should be used first if they are stored they may allow infection into the damaged area and spread to your whole crop. Potatoes are best stored in Hessian Sacks as these allow air to circulate and prevent sweating. Store them in a cool, dark place such as a shed or outhouse.


Young Runner BeansIf you have empty vegetable beds after the harvest grow ‘Green Manures’ instead of leaving the bed empty. These plants suppress weeds, protect soil from erosion and loss of nutrients and add structure. Weed and rake your cleared beds and sow, these plants grow quite quickly, some may be killed off by frost but if left in the ground will continue to give the soil some protection. Dig in before they run to seed at least 2-3 weeks before replanting in spring. This will allow the breakdown of the plant material into humus, releasing nutrients slowly over the next growing period. Field Beans, Mustard and Phacelia can all be sown now.

Caliente Mustard is not just a green manure, it also acts as a biofumigant for the soil, suppressing soil borne pests and diseases by releasing naturally occurring compounds. It can be sown in late summer for a quick crop or in autumn to over-winter in milder areas and can also be sown in spring.



Tips for the garden...

Slugs have been a real problem this year they have absolutely loved the wet and humid weather we’ve had lately and the little blighters are still reproducing madly - in fact this is one of the peak times for slugs to lay eggs before winter. You can often see the eggs as you are digging over your plot – little opaque, jelly-like balls usually found in clusters, always remove them and either destroy them or put them on the bird table – this is a very satisfactory way to dispose of them, the birds get a nice treat and you don’t have to squish them! You can reduce their numbers significantly by using a biological control such as Nemaslug. Applying the Nematodes in the autumn can reduce the problem dramatically by preventing the slugs from over-wintering and breeding which should significantly reduce the numbers in your soil next spring.


If you still have Tomatoes ripening cover them with fleece at night to keep them cosy and ripening right through the month. If the weather turns cold, cut off the whole vine and hang it in the greenhouse where the Tomatoes will continue to ripen. Alternatively harvest the unripe fruit and place in brown paper bags where they will ripen slowly. If you want to speed up this process pop a ripe banana in a bag with some Tomatoes and they will ripen much quicker as the banana gives off ethylene gas which promotes ripening of fruit.


Cabbage white butterfly is still a big problem during late summer and the devastation it causes to Brassicas in unbelievable! We all know that the best way is to remove all the caterpillars and eggs as soon as they are seen, but if you don’t have time to look at your plot for a couple of days it can be decimated by the little critters! A good spray with Insect Killer Liquid Concentrate should do the trick but you need to make sure you spray both sides of the leaves as the spray needs to come into contact with the pest. I prefer to cover my crops with Insect Netting as soon as I plant out as this prevents the butterfly getting near your crop. Make sure the net isn’t touching any leaves or the butterfly may still manage to deposit a few eggs through the net onto the leaves! If you use Extra Fine Insect Barrier Net it will protect against all flying insects, including very small ones such as carrot fly and whitefly that can soon devastate your crops.


Once the foliage has died back on your Onions and Shallots, lift them and allow to dry naturally before stringing together or storing in nets in a cool, dry and airy place. Use those with thicker necks first as they may not store as well and could develop neck rot.  

Cut down Asparagus stems and clear away any debris to ensure no lurking Asparagus Beetle has a place to over-winter, mulch beds with well rotted manure or compost. If you are thinking about starting a new Asparagus bed in the spring get ahead of the game by preparing now by digging over the area well removing any perennial weed roots. If your soil has poor drainage it will pay dividends to dig deeply and incorporate some grit to improve the drainage as asparagus hates wet soil. This early preparation gives you the added bonus of being able to remove any weeds that pop up in the spring. Don’t forget to give trench Celery and Leeks a final earth up until just the leaves are showing, this will blanch the stems and also give protection from the cold.