Now the days are longer than the nights it is time to appraise your food supply for the long winter.
There are quite a few greens that will survive outdoors right through the winter: leeks, chard, rocket, land cress and a host of brassicas such as kale, sprouts and cabbage. The brassicas are also the diet of sundry unwelcome guests such as rats, badgers and birds, so fencing and netting may be needed.
Late June/July sowings of beetroot can be left in the soil unless sharp frosts approach, in which case they are best lifted and kept in a paper sack in the shed. Good sized ones store better than small, although there is risk of them getting woody. We have just transplanted some in the polytunnel for winter cropping, again hoping for a mildish winter.
The same applies to celeriac, November is the usual month to lift in the south west. If mild, we leave ours out until we eat them, in the hope woodlice haven’t found entrance via a slug hole. Bulb fennel variety Sirio has previously wintstood light frost, although our Christmas supply is now growing in the polytunnel.
Carrots seem to keep best in the soil. So long as they are healthy plants they seem to withstand much pest damage, and keep much sweeter in the ground. The root fly is the main problem, and so long as you hoe some soil over the top of the roots sticking out of the ground no new eggs will be laid on the roots.
Turnip seem fine left out, although the leaves are eaten by birds but, unlike swede, don’t store well.
Before the first frost you should pick your winter squash. At the time of writing my squash are still small because they were sown in June rather than May, but they will continue to grow as the leaves die back and let the skins harden and will get picked at Halloween. We all enjoy Halloween, but do we like Vampires? Yes, it was love at first bite.
What to sow in October
Garlic and overwintering onion sets for harvesting next June/July. They need protecting at first to stop blackbirds scuffing them out of the soil, but by January should be growing well. Harvest time will be early July, unless we have a hot summer. If you have bare ground you could try planting rocket, which will do well if mild. Ditto for many winter salad mixes, but in my experience they again need a really mild winter to give a good harvest.
Indoors you can sow carrots and a few last winter salad such as Winter Gem or Arctic King lettuce for loose leaf picking by the new year, as well as rocket and mustards. We will be transplanting a lot of winter salads such as coriander, curly chervil, Mizuna, mustard red frills and lettuce Red Grenoble in the polytunnel this month, sown in modules in September.