Gardening Tips: Growing vegetables out of season

Vegetable growing is a specially interesting and absorbing part of gardening, but it does need a good deal of skill, knowledge and planning. However much you grow vegetables, you will always learn something new about them every year—whether you are dealing with different extremes of climate, temporary infestations of one pest or another, or because you are trying a new variety of, say, lettuce or beetroot.

Deciding what vegetables you are going to grow and then planning their arrangement is one of the hardest parts. There are over forty different major vegetables which can be grown in temperate climates, and on different types of soil.

Becoming an experienced gardener However, with practical experience, it all falls into place, and you can begin to see a pattern behind it all. You find that the root crops are mainly for winter eating, the salads come in the summer (luckily when they are most appreciated), the fruiting vegetables are harvested in summer and autumn, and the leafy crops can be cut all year round. You will find that, without realizing it, you automatically know the right time to sow or plant, because the weather and soil feel right. You will know, without having to check, that a crop should have water at a particular time, otherwise it is going to bolt or die or that it has reached a stage in its growth when it needs food. You will know that if a crop is left in the ground much longer it will have split roots or hollow hearts, or when plants are being quietly decimated by an unseen pest.

You will begin to handle your vegetable cultivation apparently carelessly and without very much effort, because you will know in advance what trouble is likely, when it might occur and how to forestall it; for instance, hoeing off annual weeds as seedlings can cut down work sevenfold by preventing them from flowering and seed setting.

Once you get to this stage in your gardening efforts, you will probably want to specialize, either by growing vegetables for show, or by growing them out of season. Both techniques require considerable expertise, if only because both involve careful timing to have the crop ready by a specified date, in spite of unfavourable weather conditions.

Why grow out of season? Growing vegetables for harvesting out of season means that you can have the luxury of eating them at a time of the year when they are either not available at all in the shops or only available at a very high price. With the price of meat and fish rising daily, home-grown vegetables can offset this a good deal. Also, you will have a much greater variety of vegetables. Although there is no reason why you should not eat cabbages or Brussels sprouts all through the winter (their natural season), this is rather monotonous and you can perfectly well have, without too much trouble, things like chicory, endive, radish, sprouting broccoli, asparagus and rhubarb.

The time when fresh vegetables out of season are really thin on the ground is the ‘hungry gap’, from late winter to the end of late spring, and particularly mid- to late spring. By then the winter roots are finished, the leaf vegetables have had a hard time coming through the winter and those that are left are a bit tatty, and the new season’s vegetables, although in the ground, are nowhere near ready for gathering. Vegetables that are in season at this time of year include Brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale, leeks, spinach, sprouting broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, celeriac and winter radish.

However, you can also have, by choosing the right methods of cultivation and the right varieties, fresh carrots, lettuce, French beans, beetroot, potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes, asparagus, cucumbers, summer radish, marrow, chicory and spring onions. Bean sprouts can be grown all year round, so there is really no close season for them, but they are often forgotten. This is a pity, because they contain more protein, weight for weight, than most ordinary vegetables.

Growing fresh vegetables out of season is an art in which it is important not to lose sight of what vegetables, and indeed all plants, need in order to grow. You can quite easily give the air, water and food they need, but the art comes in ensuring that the plants have the necessary warmth and light. Supplying heat is not too difficult and there are various ways of keeping plants protected from cold. Ensuring the right intensity of light can be more difficult, although choosing varieties specially bred to grow under the low light intensities of temperate climates in winter is one way of offsetting this. Fortunately, the length of daylight hours is not too crucial for many vegetables, though gardeners lucky enough to live in those areas renowned for their winter sunshine records will obviously find it easier to grow out of season vegetables in winter.

30. August 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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