The Autumn harvest
The Autumn garden has a few tricks up its sleeve, or should we say a few surprises in the soil! Grab the last few days of warmth before winter sets in and grow some delicious edibles for you and the family to enjoy. Autumn can be abundant when you know what to sow and how to harvest.
Try this: Surprise friends and family by preparing dishes almost exclusively from your garden.
From soil to plate
Herbs like thyme, parsley, marjoram and mint are ready to be harvested. Dig up what’s left of the plants and add them to the compost heap. Some herbs like comfrey, borage and yarrow will speed up the decomposing process and add precious nutrients to the compost.
Seasonal fruit and veggies such as squash, courgette, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, chillies, beetroot, and melons are also on the picking menu. Veggies that can be sown now include peas, parsnips, carrots, Texas Grano Onion (must be a short-day variety), Bulls Blood beetroot, and broccoli.
Top tip: For a winter production of healthy herbs, start sowing seeds in windowsill containers. All that is needed for a good crop is high light levels and a reasonable indoor temperature. Just remember to move your babies away from cold glass at night.
Before you get picking and pulling, here are some harvesting tips.
- Prolong your lettuce harvest by only picking the larger outer leaves, allowing the inner leaves to continue growing.
- Tomatoes are ready to be picked when they’re uniformly red, just before they soften.
- Lemons, depending on variety and care, should be available to harvest pretty much all year round. Keep your tree well-watered, prune when necessary and protect it from pests to keep your bounty flowing.
- Peppers are a Catch-22 harvest. If you want volume, they should be picked frequently and before they mature as they will keep trying to produce viable seed. However, if it is flavour you’re after, they will need to reach maturity before being picked, resulting in less (but tastier!) fruit.
Did you know? Autumn is the perfect time to start a compost heap or invest in a compost bin! All of your disease-free pruned and spent plants, and even fallen leaves, are ideal starters to making your own wholesome compost. You can also speed up the process by adding compost activator, available at your local garden centre.
Sharing is caring
You will often end up with a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables, far more than you need to feed your family. This is the ideal opportunity to share your harvest with friends, neighbours and those in need.
- Baskets: Homegrown is celebrated for its full flavour. As such, friends and neighbours would be delighted to receive a taste of your fresh produce to include in their meals. Pack a basket with some surplus produce that you’ve grown and deliver it to your friends, family and neighbours.
- Preserves: Once harvested, fresh produce has a limited shelf life. Fill jars with homemade pasta sauces, jams, relishes and pickles that can be enjoyed for months after you’ve harvested your vegetables. These yummy jars also make for lovely gifts and add a tasty zing to meals.
- Giveaways: Fruit and vegetables are loaded with nutrients, essential for healthy immune system. Sadly, however, families struggling to make ends meet will often opt for foods that are higher in fats and carbohydrates as these can stretch further and keep tummies fuller for longer. These families would greatly welcome your donation of surplus fruits and vegetables to help add some nutrients to their dinner table.
- Soup kitchens: For many elderly and homeless people, soup kitchens often provide their only meal of the day. These organisations need ingredients to keep the supply of soup available for those who depend on them to fill their tummies. You can donate fresh produce to a variety of food banks, soup kitchens or churches across South Africa.
Maintenance reminder: Revitalise your veggie beds to boost winter crops and give roots added nutrients. Mix in a hearty dose of compost to your soil with a handful of organic bone meal.
Growing your own food is a richly rewarding experience that brings families and the community together. Enjoy the autumn harvest and keep growing on! Remember to visit your local garden centre for seasonal seeds and seedling trays, as well as all the compost and fertilisers you’ll need.
by Life is a Garden