Les’s Patch: Sow now to enjoy some winter veg

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Japanese or over-wintering onions are handy vegetables to have on your plot when thinking about early vegetables for next year.

They can still be sown now and will be hardy enough to sit out the winter in the vegetable patch, so by next spring they will be in the right place to start growing early.

During the cold winter weather they won’t grow much, if at all, but as soon as the weather warms up they will spurt into growth.

Thanks to the early start they will be ready to harvest around two months before the regular spring sown onions, usually around June.

There’s no need to ripen these onions before harvesting, simply start to use them as soon as they are big enough.

They don’t keep for long, maybe a couple of months, but by then the regular crop of main crop onions will be ready.

Sow the seeds in drills about 9-12 inches (23cm) apart in well prepared soil in the vegetable patch.

Avoid any parts of the plot prone to waterlogging in the winter months.

Keep them weed free and water in dry spells.

Once germinated thin out the onions until you are left with plants about 3-4 inches (10cm) apart in the row.

The thinnings can be used a spring onions adding a bite to salads, sandwiches and stir-fries.

If you don’t want to sow from seed some varieties of over-wintering onions are also available as sets, normally planted at the end of the month.

Other vegetables which can still be sown are spring cabbages.

Sow in modules under cover and they will be ready to harden off and plant out by late autumn.

Some spring cabbages are also good as greens.

Try Duncan or Pixie for reliable early crops.

Direct sow spinach now and it will over-winter for spring harvesting.

Look for hardy varieties or those that are slow to bolt (run to seed).

Lambs lettuce is perfect for autumn and winter salads. Lambs lettuce or corn salad will mature quickly for harvesting throughout the winter months.

It is also good as a cut-and-come-again crop.

Hi Keeper, Radar, Toughball and Senshyu Yellow are all reliable varieties to sow now.

If you are new to allotment growing have a go at these varieties which fill those gaps of home-grown vegetables, because that is the time when supermarket prices are sky high.

As we are now in September, even though hanging baskets are still hanging on, this is the time to think about hanging basket plants for next year.

Remove any basket plants at the end of the month and place in four inch pots.

Trim the foliage back to about three inches and keep the plants just moist and frost free during the winter.

At the beginning of March give the plants a little warmth and a little more water, using tepid water, and it won’t be long before there are new shoots on each plant which can be taken as cuttings, giving free hanging basket plants.

If the plants start into growth during the winter nip out the growing tip of the new shoots and these shoots will then grow side shoots, which can also be used as cuttings.

When watering plants in the greenhouse during the winter months add just a drop or two of Armillatox to the water which will protect plants from mildew which can be a menace during the winter.

Now is a good time to feed flowering shrubs and climbers with sulphate of potash which helps ripen shoots and encourages flower buds to form for next year.

Potash also induces hardiness and helps plants to fight off diseases.

Drinking beetroot juice boosts stamina and helps a person exercise for longer.

A study by researchers at a university shows how the nitrate in beetroot juice leads to a reduction in oxygen uptake, making exercise less tiring.

It was also found that beetroot juice reduces blood pressure.

These findings should be of interest to endurance athletes as well as the elderly or those with heart or lung problems.

We often wonder what older people did before certain medicines were available – maybe this was one of the cures for certain ailments.