Vegetable harvest goes on and on

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THE INDIAN summer we are experiencing is extending the vegetable harvesting season, which is excellent news.

The second lot of courgettes are doing well – so well, in fact, that when I got back from holiday there were quite a few the size of marrows. I shall do these stuffed and baked.

The replacement tomato plants, tropical ruby, a cherry plum, are ripening really well, which is good as I still have green tomato chutney from two years ago.

To increase the rate of ripening I have taken off a lot of the lower leaves to let the light in and reduced amount of water and feed. The tropical ruby variety are good plants because while they are a little wild in their growth habit they don’t seem to get as many of the late-season problems such as blossom end rot, green back or blight.

I’ve been drying chillies. In previous years it’s taken me around a month to dry in the airing cupboard, but my new machine dried them in four days. I might put a slit in them next time, which should speed the drying further.

The butternut squash are a success, slightly smaller than, and not quite as sweet as, shop-bought. The skins are drying in the sun and should keep for some time.

I’ve got lots of grapes on the vine in the greenhouse, but because I don’t have time to do things like thinning out the grapes they’re quite small and I find it’s best to eat them outdoors, munching a handful at a time and spitting out the seeds and tough skins.

It’s not all harvesting. I have just sown winter density lettuce in the poly tunnel and will shortly be planting garlic cloves. You can try planting cloves from the grocer but its best to buy ones intended for cultivating as they don’t have diseases and have been developed for growing in this country.

I’m missing my dahlias, which I didn’t get round to replacing after last winter. Two out of six plants survived but they are small and weak.

However, there’s still plenty of colour in the herbaceous garden with rubekia, fuchsias, sedum and asters, with chrysanthemums still to come.

A lot of herbaceous plants are best lifted and divided after they’ve finished flowering in the autumn, otherwise the clumps may be too large, overcrowded or bare of flowering shoots in the centre.

Every three to five years, dig up clumps then, using a spade, cut into sections, composting the middle section.

Other plants such as hemerocallis (day lillies) can be divided with two forks back to back. Take the opportunity to weedle out the roots of any perennial weeds that have become enmeshed in the plant. Replanted clumps have the chance of developing good roots in the still warm soil and will take off in the spring.

The dianthus cuttings I took in the summer have been potted up and will be ready to replace any straggly specimens in the garden next spring.

Prior to going away I accidentally strimmed a wasp’s nest and was attacked. It was pouring with rain so I didn’t see the nest, but on the other hand I was fully protected with wet weather gear, hard hat and safety glasses – otherwise it could have been much worse than three stings.

The wasps have also been attacking the bee hive in the garden to rob their honey. The other hive is back from the heather in Yorkshire and both lots are making the most of the great weather, feasting and collecting pollen from the asters and sedum.

l Leafy Spaces garden and border design, practical advice and tuition, garden care, talks and presentations; Brookfield House, Kelsey Rd, Moortown, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, LN7 6JB; 01652 678658.