Don’t allow this time of year to be a lost season

Torbay Weekly

It is still harvest time in the garden and on the plot and only today I brought back bunches of cosmos, sunflowers and annuals.

I will be in abject denial of the change in seasons for some weeks to come in the hope of extending the summer which, in turn, reduces the darker months.

I actually know in all reality it's getting colder and darker much quicker but I won’t be accepting that in my mind until the log burner is lit or it's actually dark when the football results come on the radio.

This philosophy has led me to even think positively about early autumn as a second sowing season.

It doesn’t have to be all covering dormant beds over and closing the garden down until spring.

There will be some of that going on in the next few months. I'll be fleecing the banana plants and any citrus plants will be brought indoors - after lengthy negotiations are completed around mid-October.

I think we are missing a trick if we simply stop gardening when it gets a bit cold.

If you have a glasshouse of any size it will obviously extend any growing season, but some salad crops can be sown direct in the soil especially at this time of year.

There are plenty of edible plants that thrive in the cold weather.

Just think how parsnips need a sharp frost to increase their sugar content and taste sweeter as a result.

Winter salad crops can also help to keep us fed with home-grown produce even in the ‘hungry gap’ around February time when not much else is growing.

Corn salad, or lamb’s lettuce, can be sown directly in the ground to provide salad leaves for winter harvesting while endive is a reliable member of the chicory family that, if planted now, will start to form a heart and leaves by November.

By adding sorrel to the list, you will be rewarded with lemony-flavoured leaves in any winter salad.

Good old reliable spring onion (White Lisbon) can be sown through September and will overwinter quite easily.

In fact, if you are more organised with your planting times than me,  it can be grown continuously all-year round.

There is even a winter variety of spinach (Giant Winter) that is incredibly productive in the colder months and is indistinguishable from other spinach.

Lettuce has a winter variety, too, and sowing ‘Valdor’ now will provide you with leaves right through to spring or you can leave one or two to ‘heart up’ for picking in spring.

Imagine bringing a crisp lettuce home covered in ice and snow to officially say goodbye to a cold winter.

There are even more exotic salad ingredients to grow when it starts to gets cold.

Coriander, which it seems is an ubiquitous addition to South American and Asian cooking, can be grown in September.

One of my favourites to grow is Asian greens ‘Purple frills’. This is a variety of mustard that gets hotter as the days get shorter.

It has two selling points for me in that it grows abundantly and is in no way put off by even the coldest weather. It’s as hardy as you are going out to pick it.

Don’t allow this time of year to be a lost season if you can help it.

I try and think of it as a second spring where we can be enthusiastic in getting our hands covered in compost and nurturing plants to adulthood all over again.

There are many more plants to grow when its colder.

Bringing produce back will not only hopefully increase your stock at home but will get you outside and enjoying the subtle changes and gradual transitions in seasons which, in actual fact, are a delight to be part of and much more sunnier and drier than we ever anticipate at this time of year.