When to start harvesting veg
How do first-time vegetable growers know when their autumn produce is ready? Hannah Stephenson has some terrific timing tips
Now is the time to be harvesting a cornucopia of vegetables — from autumn cabbages to winter turnips, leeks and maincrop beetroot. 1. Winter turnips The slow-growing winter maincrop types, sown between July and mid-August, including ‘Golden Ball’ and ‘Green Globe’, should be lifted gently with a fork before they reach tennis ball size. If they get any bigger than a satsuma, they will become woody and flavourless.
They’re not winter-hardy either, so make sure you lift them before the frost comes. 2. Autumn and winter cabbage These veg are so versatile and underrated, as well as being totally hardy, braving freezing weather and remaining relatively unaffected.
Good varieties include ‘Tundra’, and ‘January King’. To protect cabbages from wind and frost in autumn, earth up soil around the base of each plant and remove dead leaves when they appear, to stop any rot spreading.
You know they are ready to pick when the centre tightens up and forms a solid ‘heart’. 3. Leeks Leeks, a great allotment crop, can be sown in spring and harvested from September onwards, right through autumn, winter and early spring. Start harvesting a few at a time to use when you need them by using a fork pushed down deeply into the ground next to the leek to ease it out.
Early varieties should be lifted first and will be ready from September to December, while late varieties can be harvested from December to March. 4. Maincrop beetroot If you’ve sown your beetroot in June for a maincrop for harvesting from September onwards, you can lift maincrop beetroots now for storing indoors.
Don’t let them get any bigger than a tennis ball or they will taste woody. When lifting,try not to break the tap root or the vegetable will bleed, and twist the leaves off to around 2.5cm-5cm above the root to stop bleeding.