Sept. update sow winter salad, harvest seed, rotation, two failures

At Homeacres, the first ten days of September were a gardener’s dream. Summer warmth continuing, of (average) 14C 57F by night and 21C 70F by day, also with 47mm (1.9in) rain falling onto dry soil. I have noticed very few weed seeds germinating after the rain, except where soil was disturbed pulling up potatoes. 

Every square inch of my ground has plants in at this time, the last plantings almost all of salads because I am selling leaves until Christmas. If you have gaps appearing, its a good moment to sow white mustard (Synapsis alba) for green manure, which is killed by moderate frost, so no worries about clearing or heaven forbid, the commonly-advised ‘digging it in’. Rest your spade in winter, except to plant trees or clear brambles.

Harvests and sowings of early autumn

When assembling vegetables for a photo on 8th September, I was struck by the warm theme of autumn reds, yellows and oranges. Vegetables have stored the summer sun and are holding it for us, some such as onions throughout winter. 

Growth is still fast, but in about six weeks it will “fall off a cliff” as days darken and nights cool. So its time for sowing many vegetables to grow undercover, such as salads, spinach, chard, kale, spring onion, spring cabbage, coriander and chervil. They can then establish as small plants before winter sets in.

Three options for sowing seeds

1 Fill module trays with multipurpose compost and sow two to four seeds in each. After 10-14 days, thin to the strongest, good for lettuce and endive. Or for plants which grow well as pairs or threes, such as rocket, mustards, spinach and chard, leave two or three seedlings in each cell. And for spring onions, sow 10-12 seeds so you will be planting a clump of onion seedlings in October.

2 Fill a seed tray and sow lines of seeds, for pricking the tiny seedlings into module trays after 5-7 days. This is good when you are short of time at sowing, and want one plant per module, and it gives sturdier plants because you can bury long stems when pricking out.

3 Sow direct if ground is bare, although undercover this is a rare thing in September, when tomatoes, peppers and many other summer crops have plenty of fruit to ripen. You could sow into any empty space outside, then cover with a cloche some time in October.

Harvesting seeds

Lettuce are ripening their seeds now, the small yellow flowers becoming balls of seed with white fluff on the ends. 

  • Either pull plants on a dry afternoon, to rub out the seeds straightaway 
  • Or pull them and hang upside sown in an airy, undercover space, to rub out seeds when you have time.

I found that rubbing the seedheads between two pieces of wood serves to loosen most seeds, over a sheet for gathering up. At this stage you have a lot of fluff and other plant debris with the seeds, so so do a careful winnowing in any light breeze to help the chaff blow away.

Rotation, or not

The main other seed I harvest at this time is runner and French beans, once their pods are dry and pale coloured. This year’s crop of Czar and borlotti beans look promising, though less so on beds where I am trialling no-rotation. In this fourth consecutive year of bean plants, they are dying off already, with a fair but not brilliant harvest. On a bed where I had not grown beans before, they are more abundant, from the 

Open day crowds

Thanks to the many visitors from far and near, at least 200 and probably more, Homeacres was buzzing in a party mood on 4th September. Steph did a bake-off the day before and produced a dazzling array of cakes, I am sure she should be featured by Mary Berry. Then she set up a bookshop in the compost bay and sold 36 books in the afternoon.

Meanwhile my son Edward and her daughter Caitlin organised the cakes and teas, with visitors donating £460 for Send a Cow.

An unexpected attraction was a huge, fast moving caterpillar of Deaths Head Hawkmoth, spotted by a visitor.

We were fortunate that wind and weather fronts passed over the day before, then gave more rain on Sunday evening.

Bounty, but I have two failures

Its been a productive year for all vegetables except these:

  • half of my 12 swedes have rotted, with the base of each leaf-stem turning black and smelly and some swedes starting to rot. A grower in Berkshire reported similar symptoms on her Chinese broccoli, and I had the stems rotting on some early cauliflower. Its a brassica issue, name unknown. do any of you have the same?
  • celeriac were looking just fantastic until early August, then started to show some yellowing leaves. I had been watering them twice a week, except when it rained, in my desire to see how big they can grow. But they are close spaced at 16in/40cm, and many leaves are now yellow turning brown. I think it’s ‘late blight’, Septoria, perhaps a result of leaves too damp, and is even causing some roots to rot. 

By comparison, back in May I had helped Steph plant some of my leftover celeriac on her allotment. She has not watered them and they are smaller, still a good size and they have healthy leaves. Less is more!


16 thoughts on “Sept. update sow winter salad, harvest seed, rotation, two failures

  1. Thanks for reply, Charles.
    Shelled beans from green pods are delicious, but flipping hard work to shell, unfortunately.
    Advantages of not rotating your climbing beans include, firstly, can leave the climbing frame in place, and, secondly, can try leaving the (perennial) Czar roots to regrow if they survive a wet/cold winter and and early molluscs.
    Tomato shoots looking happy. Good job we have some very high windows from your remarks.
    I’m also trying to keep sweet potato plants from vine cuttings over winter this year, rather than sacrifice a tuber for slips.
    It’s always good to try stuff, just don’t expect too much!
    Thanks for inspiring me.

  2. Gosh 600 feet in Derbyshire.
    However it should be warm enough for your beans. Some pods of mine go yellow before leaves do and now my leaves are green, but lots of yellow pods.
    You can shell them from green pods, to eat or freeze.
    My tomato sideshoots have grown to great plants, maybe you overwatered, keep them dry. even take sideshoots off the sideshoot plant for more plants.

  3. I’m in the Derbyshire Dales, so less bleak than Yorkshire, but ar 600 feet still a bit of a challenge. As of yesterday, still barely a single leaf yellowing and certainly no yellow pods so I guess we’ll be shelling small green beans to get some benefit. How mature do they need to get to be viable as seed and is it advisable to pick before frost, do you think? Thanks for advice.
    I tried to overwinter tomato shoots last winter but they gradually perished one by one. How did your experiment go, I’ve not seen any follow up from you?
    Also, did you get much crop from your sweet potato plants? Mine are in greenhouse this year so hopefully won’t be totally destroyed by rodents as last year.

  4. There should be some yellow pods by now, are you in the Yorkshire Dales?
    Its a fair point that the less abundant plants have ripened earlier although they have also lost nearly all the leaves while some pods are green, so I reckon there will be less flavour in those beans.
    Here I find that October sees many more ripen.

  5. Although non rotation of beans might result in reduced yield, it looks beneficial as the beans mature earlier. I have abundant growth of Czar but all still very green with new flowers still forming. I’d definitely swap for less but harvestable.
    What chance of of a dried bean harvest now, and what to do with a heap of runner beans we don’t eat??

  6. I inherited a vole here and managed to catch it.
    Then in the last month a rampant mole has arrived and I have asked a mole catcher to come.

  7. A question not related to rot – I have experienced increasing damage from voles over recent years. I wonder if this is aggravated by my no-dig policy. I am not about to revert to digging to discourage the voles but wonder if this is a problem you have experienced and do you have any remedy?
    Thank you for sharing your expertise so generously.

    1. We had voles and I could not catch any. Then I fed the neighbors cats with raw fish from the frozen bags ones buys cheaply per kg. After a week or so I had 5-6 cats visiting every night and a hefty 5-6 baby moles dead on my doorstep daily. It works well for me now also. Plus, we love the cats and my kids play with them.

      1. Hi Alex and that is amazing, brilliant thinking outside the box!!
        I have a stray cat too, patrols the compost bays for rats.

  8. Heya Charles,

    I agree too that I wouldn’t think that of the manures. I just realised as well that those celeriac that rotted were all growing in full sun while those that were growing in homemade compost that didn’t rot were in somewhat half shade. I can only guess that perhaps of the extreme and high temperatures might have played a role in it?

    All other plants are growing beautifully in the manure compost, especially the beetroot, they are getting huge! And loads of pumpkins too… so far from 10 pumpkin plants, the total count is 93 pumpkins! An average of 9 pumpkins per plant! And the cabbages and Brussel sprouts! We are excited!

  9. Thanks to Katherine Crouch on Facebook, I identify the brassica disease as bacterial soft rot (Erwinia carotovora) which enters stems often after insects chewing.
    For swedes I think its the gall midge and maybe Siberian kale is prone to insects, seems the best remedy is mesh, again!
    Karen that is interesting about your celeriac. Though I would not conclude from one year that well decomposed manure is bad for them.
    Half of my celeriac are mulched with homemade, half with well decomposed cow manure, and damage is similar. I think I overwatered, including some evening watering. I shall treat them like tomatoes next year.
    Yes Stringfellow, a good season overall, tick the positives!

  10. Hi Charles, your garden is looking great as ever; literally bursting with plants.

    I experienced the rot on swede last season and lost the lot. So far so good this year but will wait and see. I also found a patch of ground on my allotment which has club root so will be avoiding that area for brassicas in future. My celeriac are doing okay and are now beginning to grow strongly, but they were way behind yours for months. Plenty to enjoy though, so it’s been a good season. Thanks for all of your advice.

  11. Hey Charles,

    Out of my 4 varieties of kale, only the Siberian kale is rotting at the stems and side shoots… very strange.

    Some of my celeriac plants have also rotted, none of them have yellowing leaves yet. Some were grown in well rotted horse manure, cow manure and matured garden compost. And it appears that those in the garden compost didn’t rot at all. While most that rotted were from cow manure while so far only 1 rotted in the horse manure. I didn’t water much those in the garden compost, while those in the animal manure received the occasional watering. I honestly can´t exactly saw if it´s because the animal manures weren’t too rotted and mature? or the watering?

  12. I also had swedes which looked healthy from the outside but were completely mushy on the inside. I used to think this was due to them slowly cooking under netting but these were not netted. Disappointing when they look so healthy from outside.

  13. I’ve had the stem rot on a few kale plants – seemingly at random – under 10 plants out of 400ish. The leaves just flop down leaving a nasty slimy stem

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