Getting ahead with autumn veg

Purple sprouting broccoli

Pippa Greenwood of Gardener’s Question Time, gets the plot plant-ready.

If you’ve harvested your crops and now have vacant ground, it may be time to think about autumn veg. ‘Garden ready’ plants, which look like plug plants, are widely available and already have a healthy root system. Here are some of my favourites for September planting:

* Broad beans: Very few people plant broad beans in September, but if you do, you’ll see they really do get ahead. Get them in September as small plants, overwinter them with a fleece-covered tunnel, then plant another batch early in the year and you’ll have a much longer cropping period, 

* Radiccio: The dark red, almost burgundy-coloured leaf, which adds colour and flavour to salad, can be planted in September and looks great as an ornamental plant as well as tasting good. 

When you plant it, it is often green with slight purple streaks, but as it grows, it will pink up and then go red once it’s hit by really cold weather. You may be eating leaves within six weeks to two months, depending on the weather. 

* Japanese onions: Buy them as small plants in a cell in September. Plant the cell, which usually contains between three and five little onion plants, in its entirety, about 40cm apart. The plants inside will elbow each other apart to form a clump of onions. 

They need to be kept moist in September — but don’t feed them — and are maintenance-free in winter, growing rapidly in spring. 

* Purple sprouting broccoli: It’s a very pretty plant, with beautiful purple spears and is incredibly good for you in terms of vitamin content and is also easy to grow. 

Plant small plants in the autumn and really firm the soil around the base of the plant or it won’t crop as well. They should be ready late spring, depending on conditions.

Meanwhile, if you are taking delivery of tender, small plants in September, try to sort out the slug population beforehand. Put down Nemaslug ( ), the nematode, as a drench on to the area you are going to plant up.

A small pack will serve 40-square metres, which is plenty of space for a lot of veg and it lasts really effectively in the soil for six weeks, often a bit more.

Apply it just before you put your autumn veg in, which gives the plant six weeks to toughen up and become a lot less appetising to pests. The more slugs you sort out in the autumn, the fewer there are in the spring.”

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