Tales from the plot September

As we drift slowly from summer to autumn there’s still plenty to be done, keep hoeing …. always a must!
Thankfully our two freezers are now bursting at the seams with vegetables that will carry us through the winter and into the next year, it’s a nice feeling. We’ve had a good year with warmth and rain, a great combination for growing vegetables. 
One thing to always look for this time of year is seed reductions: most retail suppliers greatly reduce the price of seeds at this time of year and it’s a great way to stock up with cheap seeds for next year. If seeds are kept dry and at a low constant temperature there is no reason why you shouldn’t have success with them the following year – I keep mine in a biscuit tin in a cupboard. However there are exceptions, parsnip seeds have to be fresh; I was once told that if the seed is flat as a parsnip seed is they will not keep. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in this but it certainly seems to be the way.
As runner beans and french beans come to an end, I’m told it’s a good practice to leave the roots when you tidy up adding nitrogen to the soil. Also keep the beans that have been left and let them dry then keep the seeds for the following year, I’ve done this for many years with great success. 
One of the hardest things for me has been learning what could be planted that would allow my allotment to supply food throughout the year and it can, I still haven’t fully mastered this, however I am getting pretty close hopefully.
There is still a lot you can do and a lot you can plant and harvest through the winter, spinach and swiss chard can be harvested right through the winter also russian kale, borecole, savoy cabbage, brussels and of course leeks. I think everyone should grow leeks, they make wonderful soup and are a must have in any winter casserole, try them fried with cabbage for a tasty vegetable accompaniment, they are just great.
Root crops like parsnips and carrots can just be dug and used as needed throughout the winter, I’ve also managed to grow lettuce through the winter – only a really severe frost will wipe them out, if you cover them they can usually survive. 
If you’re growing some potatoes for Christmas they should be well underway by now, try and cover them if there’s going to be a particularly cold night. Broad beans can go in later this month which will overwinter and be ready early spring next year although for me this has never worked well, I prefer to plant them late February. 
Strawberries normally have their runners trying to root around this time and are a great supply of new plants for the following year, autumn raspberries should now be producing often right through until November, with our main crop of summer raspberries we usually make jam, the later autumn raspberries are just a special treat on your cereal first thing in the morning … just lovely!
Richard Thorpe
Syston allotments 15 B