August on the Garden – Salad Crops

In the midst of the good summer weather, I’m sure few of us want to think about autumn and winter. But, if you want some tasty crops to harvest later in the year, now’s the perfect time to get going with some great salad plants.

Spring Onions

The great thing about spring onions is how quickly they go from seed to harvestable crop – usually under ten weeks. Start off by sowing your seeds into a plug tray, about eight to ten seeds per plug. They’ll take about five weeks to germinate and grow big enough to transfer to the garden when the leaves should be two to three inches high.

During this period, prepare the soil where you’ll be planting out with a phosphorous rich fertiliser such as bone meal. When they’re ready, transfer the onions into the ground. Do not separate out the plugs at this point or you could damage the immature bulbs.

After about three weeks, or when the plants are roughly six inches high, add a nitrogen-rich fertiliser, sprinkling this lightly on the soil’s surface around your plants. Wait another couple of weeks and then harvest your onions as you need them.

To make your harvested onions last longer, remove the tips of the leaves to prevent them drawing moisture out of the bulb.

Swiss Chard

This fantastic crop offers great value as it constantly produces new growth, allowing continuous harvesting for months.

To begin, sow in a starter tray, one seed per module. After three weeks, the seeds should have germinated, producing about three to five seedlings each. Thin these out so only one seedling remains per plug or your final plants will be weak and stunted. To thin out, cut the shoots off rather than uprooting the seedlings as this could damage the plant you want to keep.

Wait another week, during which time you should prepare your ground with a good all-purpose fertiliser, then plant your seedlings out with 30cm between plants and the same distance between each row. As your chard grows, remove any lower leaves as these will tend to get too moist and rot. If the plants start to bolt (produce tall central shoots) make sure to cut off any flower heads as they appear.

About four weeks after planting out you should be able to start harvesting the outer leaves. Do this by twisting the leaves off at their base, being careful not to damage the stem or roots. Harvest the leaves when they are still fairly small as if left they can become somewhat bitter.

Your plants should produce new growth until the end of November. At this point cover them with straw to protect them from the worst of the winter weather and they should begin growing again in the spring.

For more information about using fertilisers to get the most out of your garden, give us a call on 0117 311 1217.

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