It is possible to get vegetable crops available for harvest late into summer as well as in autumn and winter. Planting late in the season can also produce early crops the following year. There is something wonderful about harvesting kale and sprouting broccoli with snow under foot or the sweet taste of spring on unexpected warm days in February and March.
There are a good variety of crops which can be planted later in the season and then harvested in late summer or early autumn. Salad vegetables are particularly good for this.
Endive (sweetest later in the year), salad onions, radish, lettuce and leaf salad such as lamb’s lettuce and Claytonia all produce well as late salad crops. Swiss chard, leaf beet and Florence fennel (which needs some protection) can all be sown in August to provide a late crop in late September and October and can be used cooked. In colder areas, these vegetables may need to be planted earlier in August and some protection using cloches may be helpful in order for them to grow well. In warmer areas even peas can produce a late crop.
Other crops which can be grown to be harvested in winter and early spring include mizuna and mustard greens, pak choi and Japanese broccoli. All these crops produce increased yields with protection but still produce satisfying veg to enjoy without it. They are hardy plants which can stand without damage in winter and be harvested as needed as most of their growth occurs in autumn.
Do consider positioning carefully with crops that are identified as benefiting from protection. Avoid windy positions, especially north easterly winds that tend to be colder, and frost pockets (places where harder frosts last all day).
Vegetables varieties that are transferred to final growing positions in August include leeks, sprouting broccoli, kale (in warmer areas) and spring cabbages (transplanted in September). These crops can either be harvested in winter or early in spring the following year. If you haven’t sown these seeds already, garden centres and nurseries are likely to have some selections available. Onion and garlic sets are also available during late summer to be overwintered for earlier and larger yields.
A great project for any space - gardens, balconies or even indoors - is to grow some potatoes for Christmas time, be it in a compost, garden refuse bag or container.
Each seed potato will need about 30cm space and make sure you have at least 30cm of soil and drainage holes in the bottom of any growing container. The seed potatoes will grow and produce small new potato type tubers in around 12 weeks, hopefully before the first frosts which will stunt growth.
They can remain in the soil until needed but will need to be protected from hard frost. You can bring them indoors if they started outside, protect them with horticultural fleece or pack the bags together with lots of straw surrounding them. You will likely get between 5 and 10 potatoes per plant.
Late crop varieties of seed potato are available from garden centres and nurseries at this time of year. If you have lots of space to grow them, you could even give them as Christmas presents – a bag of potatoes - not just one potato of course. Gardeners are very generous after all!