Reaping the rewards of the summer harvest

Picking fresh fruit and harvesting vegetables straight from the garden is one of the delights of summer, and this year is no exception.

Sunday, 21st August 2016, 9:54 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:26 pm
Pea and bean shelling has been the focus in the garden recently.

Shallots, red and white, are a valuable winter vegetable. They come in a handy size and store so well once ripened.

Ours, in keeping with several other vegetables, were started off individually in pots. Planted out at the beginning of May, they romped away and were ready for harvesting by mid-July. They keep best in a cool, dry environment and, like most stored vegetables, need regular checks for soundness.

By comparison, the broad beans, garden peas and runner or French beans are low maintenance once picked, blanched and bagged-up for the freezer. The first two were our focus in a long shelling session because they all tend to mature at once.

The runner beans, which are just starting to form pods, need a slightly different approach as they reach maturity in stages over several weeks. Batches are chopped, blanched and frozen at regular intervals before any become stringy and unpalatable.

Where growing space is limited it’s essential to make use of every square metre, and as soon as one crop has been cleared, refresh the patch by forking in fish, blood and bone or a similar organic feed, and replant. For example, the pea and bean stems have been composted, but the roots have been dug in to enrich the soil. More winter greens can be planted on that spot now.

Twenty sweetcorn, planted in block formation to encourage wind pollination, are offering plump cobs, an average of three per plant. This is a delicious meal starter, but when the feast ends, the spot on which they grow is reserved for spring cabbages.

The raspberry bed is based on four varieties, and they are in continuous production from July to November. This year’s crop is heavy thanks to ideal weather conditions, but the organic mulch in winter and timely pruning helps too.

Main crop cultivars should have fruiting canes removed completely when picking stops to encourage the strong new shoots. Autumn varieties have all canes chopped to soil level in winter and growths will emerge in spring.

Once the freezer’s well stocked, raspberries can be picked for pleasurable desserts and jam-making.

Two further strawberry varieties were added to the existing four this spring and they’re already fruiting. Half are main crop cultivars and the others late. A few have been damaged by slugs, as anticipated, and heavy downpours encouraged a spot of rotting, but picking started in June and continues.

In a couple of weeks we’ll trim leaves, weed and feed between rows and let air into the main croppers. This is the time to propagate by pegging down strong runners or potting up young plants that have rooted themselves.