Make a head start with autumn veg in the garden

Home & Garden supplement
Home & Garden supplement
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Are your vegetables look a little stunted, jaded or straggly this summer? If so, you’re not alone.

“Summer has only just started,” garden expert and broadcaster Pippa Greenwood observes.

“A lot of plants are really behind because we didn’t have the run-up we needed,” says Greenwood, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.

“The beginning of summer was wet, gloomy and cold. As veg catch up, many will become stressed because it’s too hot for them.”

If your veg are beyond saving or 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.

“If you get veg plants in the ground in September, they can sit there, hold the soil together over the winter and be ticking over,” says Greenwood.

Here are some of her favourites for September planting:

- Broad beans. Get them in September as small plants, overwinter them with a fleece-covered tunnel. Plant another batch early in the year and you’ll have a much longer cropping period as the ones you planted in September will be ready to harvest several weeks before the second batch.

- Radiccio. The dark red 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.

- Japanese onions. Plant a cell in September, 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.
- Purple sprouting broccoli. It’s a very pretty plant, with beautiful purple spears and is incredibly good for you in terms of vitamin content.