August and September are still very productive months in the vegetable garden with plenty of delicious vegetables at their peak and ready to pick. If you're anything like me you'll also be itching to sow something or pop in a few seedlings to stretch the season a little longer.With the exception of two very cold winters in 2009 and 2010 Irish winters tend to be on the mild side and leaving you some scope to continue growing some fresh food. A greenhouse or polytunnel will broaden your choice considerably but even some basic cloche protection will allow you to grow a surprising amount of tasty salads to brighten the winter months.
If you haven't planted traditional Winter vegetables like brussels sprouts, parsnips or winter cabbage I'm afraid you're too late at this time of year. You can, however, still get a worthwhile crop from some quick growing varieties before the Winter hits us. Time really is of the essence at this stage of year so it makes particular sense to buy ready grown seedlings which have been growing for 4-6 weeks already. It will come as no surprise to learn that we supply mail order boxes of winter seedlings available in pre picked trays or by using our quick pick 'choose your own' tool. Prices for 42 seedling plants start at a very manageable €28.95 or €9.50 for a six pack of fresh herb plants.
If you'd like to view our seedling trays you can click the following links:
What to grow this time of year? As we've said growing under cover will increase your options but you still have time to get a quick crop (yes, that's where our name comes from!) of some vegetables while the weather is still relatively warm. Turnip 'Tokyo Cross' is a speedy growing white turnip which sprints to a very worthwhile harvest before the first Christmas ads hit the radio.
Kale planted from seedling plants will also provide healthy greens which happily survive the winter and then grow new Spring leaves when the garden is otherwise pretty bare. We recommend kale 'Nero Di Toscana' and the slightly sweeter tasting 'Red Russian'.
Plant your Spring cabbage from seedlings now, they will overwinter to give you delicious conical heads of cabbage early in the year. The variety 'April' we find to be the best all rounder but do keep an eye out for slugs if the winter is mild.
Also, don't turn your nose up at one of the handiest and most productive members of the beet family, chard and perpetual spinach. Put in some seedlings now for some good glossy leaves before winter dormancy, they'll wake up again in the Spring and fill a barren gap till things get going again. Grow Rainbow Chard for fantastic brightly coloured stems or Swiss chard for a milder flavour. Perpetual Spinach does as its name suggests and keeps producing leaves as you pick them, it's great in a tunnel where you can nearly harvest all winter. What else? Keep going with spring onions, our favourite? Ishikura Bunching.
Oriental Salads In my opinion the real stars of the Autumn/Winter show are the Oriental salads because they grow much more successfully in cooler temperatures and are far less likely to bolt and run to seed than Summer sown plants. Orientals tend to be frost hardy and while they don't enjoy being frozen they certainly tolerate it well. You need to have sown them by mid september to get a decent size plant by the time growth slows dramatically from November onwards.
You are in for a real treat with varieties like mustard golden frills and ruby streaks which has to be one of the tastiest salad leaves around and pretty much impossible to grow in the Summer. There are a huge range of oriental salads available as seeds from the Vegetable Seed Co. or a range of our favourite varieties as seedling plants. We've all tried rocket but have a go at prolific 'mizuna' and 'mibuna', tasty mustards including the hot and spicy 'Green in the Snow'. Add bags of colour and flavour to your plate with these excellent end of year crops.
I have included a flavour of what you can grow now but we there are many more, especially the Orientals. As usual we're here to help and are always delighted to hear from you if you need any help and advice.