We’re halfway through August and the berries are bursting with juice, the beans are abundant and you could be forgiven for thinking that the focus is now on harvesting rather than planting. But you’d be wrong. There are still plenty of opportunities to refill the veg beds and get more seedlings growing in succession.
As you clear away old plant growth and new spaces appear, it’s the perfect opportunity to get some fast growing crops in to keep your home grown veg stocked up into autumn. If you’ve not managed to plant anything this year yet, don’t fret; these 5 late summer crops can give you a last minute veg plot boost.
A crop that is often underestimated, radishes can liven up many a salad bowl and are a great addition to a BBQ. They’re also great for pepping up sandwiches making them a fantastic late summer veg plot contribution. Simple to grow, radishes come in many colours and you can choose from milder to more peppery roots with a hotter kick. Ideal for window boxes or straight in the ground, whatever size plot you’ve got, sprinkle in some radish seeds and enjoy their crunchy goodness after just four weeks.
Beetroot can be planted into August and grow quickly giving you rich purple or golden roots into October. Whether you enjoy pickling and want to preserve some of your crop for next year, or enjoy them roasted, beetroot is surprisingly versatile and can even be used in chocolate cake to give a delicious moist sponge. For the best chance of germination, soak your seeds overnight before you plant them out and make sure you keep the roots well watered as beetroot can become woody if it gets too dry during dry spells. When weeding, take care around the plants as the root can ‘bleed’ if damaged with sharp tools.
If you act quickly, you still have time to get some carrot seeds in. Carrots come in many shapes and sizes, from globes to long thin roots or bigger chunkier carrots. If you want something a little different, purple, white and yellow varieties are also available. At this time of year, you should choose a maincrop variety which is more suited to the later season. The warmth of the sun on your soil should suit this crop and help get the seeds germinating nice and quickly. Carrot fly can be many gardeners’ enemy. It is attracted when carrot leaves are crushed, sending the smell out on the airwaves. It’s therefore advisable to sow carrot seeds sparingly so there is no need to thin the plants, helping prevent unwanted visitors munching on your crop.
Found more often at farmers markets than supermarkets, turnips can be a valuable late crop to sow. Turnips are great in stews along with carrots and beetroot and can be stored through the winter. Plenty of water, cooler temperatures and a bed prepared with organic matter that has rotted down well will help give you a successful crop of turnips. If it’s too warm and dry, your seedlings may struggle to get going. If this is it case, keep them well watered and give them some shade and your turnips should get on their way. They don’t transplant too well so it’s best to sow the seeds direct into position, a few at a time so you get the roots maturing into the autumn and can enjoy them fresh from the soil.
Fast growing lettuce such as cut and come again varieties or lambs lettuce can still be sown to give you fresh leaves for side salads or summer lunches. Lettuce grows well in pots and window boxes too making it another great crop for small spaces. You could also start thinking ahead to spring time and get spring lettuce seeds planted if you have a greenhouse or sunny windowsill and protection from slugs, giving you a head start for next year.
Cabbages and winter leaves can be planted in pots ready to plant out in autumn, giving fresh greens into the winter. Again, keep an eye out for slugs, but this can be a good way to keep your plot productive through into winter.