It’s been quite a frustrating year in the garden for most people due to the cold, damp spring and huge number of slugs and snails about. Even we had poor germination with our carrots and leeks. Hopefully though by now some of your crops are coming on and you’ve started to reap the rewards of some of your hard work.
We now have quite a selection of home grown veg in our farm shop with tomatoes being the latest crop to go on sale.
What We’re Picking
The summer months are a great time for us as we can offer so much fresh produce that we have grown ourselves. Currently we are harvesting and selling the following in our farm shop:
Little Gem Lettuce
Herbs (basil and parsley)
It is important to know when to pick things, how to store and ripen them and also how often to feed the plants so that they continue to produce a good crop.
Tomatoes in particular need to be picked just as they start to turn orange. Store them in a cool dry place and wait for them to ripen to red. Tomato plants should be fed once every week (minimum every two weeks) from when they start to bear fruit (we would suggest a liquid feed such as Tomorite or Liquid Seaweed if you’re growing organically) as this will help keep them producing well. You’ll probably find that all your tomatoes come on at the same time and you have more than you know what to do with. If you do have more than you can use leave some of them to turn soft and put them in a blender and freeze them. They make great pasta sauces!
Potatoes should be lifting well at this time of year and you should be starting to enjoy a full crop. When digging potato beds be sure to dig systematically in a grid pattern to avoid missing any of your well earnt harvest. Potatoes also need to be lifted and stored carefully in a cool dry place out of the light so that they keep. If they are exposed to light they turn green quickly. For best results store in old paper sacks.
Spinach, chard and leafy lettuce wilt very quickly once they are cut from the stem, we tend to cut these crops early in the morning before it gets too hot. We find that putting wet newspaper or similar over the box in the fridge helps to keep it fresh. Radish are another crop that wilts fast, we would suggest pulling these when you want to eat them as after 24 hours they go soft and lose their crunch.
Generally, most salad and vegetable crops keep better when they are refrigerated.
What to Plant in August
Whilst harvest is the main order of the day don’t forget to start getting your winter veg plants in the ground. You can still plant leafy greens that will be ready by mid-September and early October, things like lettuce, rocket and similar leafy herbs grow quickly and can be picked in just a few weeks.
The main veg to be planting now is winter cabbage and leeks. Leeks can be planted once they are between 5 and 20cms tall. You will need to use a dibber or a stick to make holes in the ground around 15cm deep and about the same distance apart. We have Leeks for planting on sale now in bundles of 20. If the ground is sun baked and hard, water it the night before you want to plant, this should make it easier to put your dibber in the ground!
Looking After the Excess
If you’ve got more fruit and veg than you can possibly think about eating in time then now is a great opportunity to try your hand at some traditional jam and chutney making. Chutney making is particularly easy and really can be made with anything that takes your fancy.
You’ll need vinegar (2-3 litres should be sufficient depending on how much you want to make!). Your vinegar must have at least 5% acetic acid content (this is written on the bottle usually). You’ll also need a stainless steel pan – as other metals will react with the acid and ruin the flavour.
You will then need to decide what fruit and veg you want to use. We recommend starting simple with say some apples, plums, tomatoes and onions. Chop everything up, add it to your vinegar, add sugar (reasonable amounts dependant on how sweet you like your chutney and then add herbs and spices (typical choices are cloves, cinnamon, ginger and chili). Bring to the boil then simmer until your mixture has started to congeal – it should behave a little like jelly at this point. Once you’ve finished then let the mixture cool before storing in sterilised Kilner jars or similar. These can make nice gifts at Christmas time to accompany the cheese board!