Vegetables that rained supreme

Tomatoes are always a favourite
Tomatoes are always a favourite
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It’s not been the greatest year for vegetables, but there have been notable successes among the dismal failures.

The rain might have seen off some crops, but others have lapped it up, which means that the likes of runner and French beans should fill the freezer for months to come.

Beetroot also seem to have thrived, and courgettes and cucumbers are still flowering and producing a healthy return for quite a small investment in seed.

Tomatoes should also be producing tasty fruits, but outdoor varieties have taken a hammering with the weather and disease.

To ripen tomatoes that have set, continue to feed the plants with a seaweed-rich plant food such as Liquid Tomorite. A liberal application every 10 days or so will do wonders in encouraging tastier crops.

Sweetcorn is taking longer this year to come to maturity, although it’s worth checking the ripeness of the kernels as soon as the tassels turn brown. Lack of sunshine has slowed growth so that crops are taking their time to ripen. To keep plants growing strongly, apply a foliar feed every week.

Every two or three years, it pays to divide established globe artichokes to keep the stock young and vigorous. Use a sharp spade to split the crown into smaller pieces and plant these rooted suckers in soil that has been improved with old compost from growing bags and a good handful of general-purpose plant food. When they are planted a metre apart they have room to thrive and to develop plenty of flower buds.

Winter brassicas, including sprouts, sprouting broccoli and winter cabbage, will benefit from a late dressing of a general plant food and the soil firmed around the roots.

With taller growing sprouts and broccoli it’s worth staking the crop and covering it with netting if pigeons are on the prowl for an easy meal. To ensure the netting remains at the full height, run wires well above the top of the plants so that even when the birds rest on the protective covering, their weight doesn’t allow the netting to sink down to foliage height.

Pigeons are clever pests and will strip any green vegetation from the cabbage family when the weather turns cold.

Crops that can be sown now include lettuce and salad leaves such as Chinese cabbage, winter spinach (chard) turnips for their green tops, and spring cabbage. Enjoy.