Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Spreading our Harvest

In late summer and autumn we, as home gardeners often have an abundance of fresh produce but don't really know what to do with it (there is, after all a limit to the amount of pickles, chutneys and jams we can consume) and think that it's not possible to extend our harvest into the cooler months of winter. 

Some vegetables that may be harvested during late Autumn, Winter and early spring are broad beans, broccoli, peas, cabbages, carrots, lettuce, rocket, mustard greens, sorrel, spinach, radish, turnip, parsnip, silverbeet, chard and kale. To have these vegetables available over this extensive period, it is paramount that you sow seeds in succession to spread the harvest. By doing this, perhaps a 'glut' will be alleviated. 

One neat way to handle large quantities of vegetables is to pick them early - there is nothing better than mini vegetables. The 'thinnings' from carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts etc is just fantastic. Tiny beetroot leaves may be used in salads along with the outer lettuce leaves and small herbs. Immature leaves of cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are quite delicious when steamed.

If you plan well you can have a constant supply of herbs - parsley, chives, thyme etc which can be harvested all year round and give a great fresh 'kick' to our meals. Other 'woodier' herbs like rosemary and sage will grow for many years and when in flower they are great for attracting bees.

Carrots are a crop that may be left in the ground and pulled as required, if you leave them too long they will run to seed and become 'woody' and inedible, so best to keep an 'eye' on them.

Potatoes, pumpkins and onions store well once they have been harvested and can be used through Winter - they need to be stored somewhere dark, dry and very well ventilated.

In late autumn any unripe tomatoes can be left on the bushes and the whole plant pulled up and hung by its roots in the shed - they will continue to ripen over time, thus extending your harvest, they will have tougher skins but the taste will be just as good.

Microgreens and sprouts may be grown indoors any time of the year - they just need an environment with sufficient daylight to grow.

I guess the secret to having an extended harvest period for our vegetables is to be very diligent with sowing seeds for successive harvesting. Sometimes this is a little difficult with travel and other family commitments however, we can at least try to stagger our seed sowing as much as possible.

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