Posted by in Features.

The other week we went to the National Vegetable Society championships in Llangollen. The exhibition standard of the vegetables was one of the highest, which is quite amazing considering it’s hardly been an ideal growing year so far. I don’t grow for show myself but for those interested, my friend John Trim has written some articles on show growing for the web site. He’s a horticultural lecturer and a top show grower and judge, so he knows what he’s talking about. Show Growing.

Those up in Scotland and in the west have seen hardly anything but rain whilst those in the east and especially the south-east have been suffering from lack of rain. It’s almost as if we’ve two countries – the wet one and the dry one. However, we’ve all suffered from a cooler summer than usual as well which certainly doesn’t help for ripening tomatoes and the other greenhouse crops.

If you find you’ve tomatoes that look as if they should be ripening but they aren’t, try bringing them into the warmth of the house and keeping them in a bowl with a ripe banana. The banana gives off ethylene gas which encourages ripening.

I’m happy to say our How to Store Your Home Grown Produce has really taken off now that the harvest is starting to come in. What we’ve tried to do is write a practical book covering the best traditional methods of storing and modern methods like freezing that take a lot less time and effort. We’ve touched on chutneys and jams etc., but not in as much detail as in our Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves.

Your maincrop potatoes should be ready this month, with a little luck. I had an email from a chap who had been advised to leave them in the ground and dig up as required to eat. You might just get away with this but the chances are that the slugs will get the crop before you. Far better to harvest when ready and store them.

For years I’ve stored my potatoes in hessian sacks and because there’s always the odd slug hiding in a potato I drop half a dozen slug pellets into the sack as I fill it. So another email arrives from the health and safety executive. This is apparently an untested procedure and could potentially poison you. Sadly they’d no evidence for this and couldn’t quantify the risk or even properly define a risk.

I’m still alive, you’ve been warned and it’s nice to know our taxes aren’t being wasted. (Yes, that was me being sarcastic!)

A couple of real risks you should be aware of though. If you’re manuring this autumn, do try and check the provenance of the manure. Aminopyralid weedkiller is still causing many growers problems and is likely to continue to be a problem for years to come. There’s a lot on the site about this devastating problem here: Aminopyralid

Another risk that all gardeners should be aware of is tetanus. The germ lives in the soil, especially manured soil and can enter the body through a small scratch or thorn prick. It’s a very serious illness, potentially fatal. However, keeping your vaccinations up as you should do anyway will make you immune. If in doubt, just ask at your doctors. As jabs go, it’s not a painful one – take a coward’s word for that!

It’s an awkward month, September, not really time to start digging over but a bit late for replacing crops as they are lifted. Bare soil will soon develop a cover of weeds so my advice is to go for a green manure. They prevent rain leaching nutrients, help with soil structure and smother weeds. Later on you can just dig them in. There’s information on the site about green manures.

Finally for this month, many thanks to all who filled in the survey about the web site. It’s given me a lot to think about and will really help me improve it further. The main problem people seem to have is actually finding things on the site. Worse than my shed! Hopefully I’ll come up with the right answers and reorganise it so things are clearer.