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

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

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.

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