Monday, 31 August 2015

LATE SUMMER HARVESTS



LATE SUMMER HARVESTS

The temptation to get away for a wee holiday in the sun is very strong after our long cool wet summer, but then you find it does suit some of our garden plants which have had plenty moisture and just enough warmth to get them growing. Cabbages, cauliflowers and sprouts have never grown so well and root crops have all got plenty top growth and hopefully roots will be a decent size.
However sweet corn and broad bean plants are all smaller than last year.
Late summer is the peak season for harvesting so while a wee trip into the sunshine would be very welcome many plants have matured and are ready to pick. Holiday thoughts will have to wait.
French beans are later this year and I have only just started to pick them so no rush for freezer space just yet.
Peas were sown over three dates, so the earliest have been picked and used while a very tall row of Alderman is currently being harvested. Another row of Kelvedon Wonder was sown in early July so wont be ready till the end of this month and into early September.

Broad beans were all harvested in mid August in a mammoth operation over several days.
Beans were picked in early afternoon, and then shelled after tea outdoors on sunny evenings. The beans were then blanched, cooled and extracted from the skins over the next two hours indoors accompanied by some music and a three year old bottle of redcurrant wine to keep us sane as it was a Friday night. Lastly, just before midnight they were bagged up into small bags and placed in the freezer. They will be used as they are or for a delicious and healthy bean soup over the next year.
Sweet corn is the next crop to get harvested in a one off destructive harvest. This year they were not ready till the end of August, but then the whole crop is ready at once. The cobs are picked in the morning on a nice sunny day so they can get sorted leisurely in the afternoon on the patio tables. All husks are removed and the cobs sorted out into large cobs for freezing, and others for either immediate use or short term use in the fridge.
Cabbage and cauliflower have just loved this weather and growth has been very good. The cool weather has helped to ripen them over a longer period so we could use them fresh with just a small amount getting frozen. I have also done two sowings of each in short rows separated over a couple of months. Six cabbages and six cauliflowers is plenty for us to get through in two months.
Courgettes are now very prolific, but do make a great soup, as well as numerous other dishes.
Onions grown from one packet of Hytech seed has given me an enormous crop of large bulbs that now just need a sunny dry spell to ripen up the bulbs so they can be woven into ropes for storing.
In the fruit garden the soft fruit has all been picked except my perpetual strawberry Flamenco which continues with berries and the Autumn Bliss raspberries which fruit till the frosts come.
Bramble Helen started to crop at the beginning of August and is now nearly finished, but my new primocane bramble Reuben is just starting to fruit. This is its first year so too early to judge.
Aronia Viking, the chokeberry had to be netted from our resident blackbird, who stripped off last years crop in one night. Aronias get picked once they all turn black and we use them for jam, summer puddings, compote and if I can get any spare they make a fantastic and very healthy wine, being very high in antioxidants. They can be frozen for future use.

Wee jobs to do this week
Greenhouse grapes should now be fully grown so ripening up the bunches takes priority. They will not need any further feeding and if the roots are within the greenhouse border just give enough water to keep them happy. Keep the ventilators wide open and also the door on warm days to circulate air flow to prevent any build up of botrytis and mildew. Remove all sideshoots as they appear and remove some surplus foliage to let light and sun into the plant. The more sun gets to the ripening bunches the sweeter they will be. Do not handle the bunches as they ripen and get a protective bloom on the grapes, but if you wish to sample a few select a small bunch with the most ripe grapes showing. Pulling off a few grapes from larger bunches can lead to botrytis infection.

END

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