Real Men Sow

Preparing for Winter: Harvesting Squashes, Planting Onions and Releasing the Kale!

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Our heating came on. This is in part due to the arrival of baby Rory, but still, it got cold out there. Summer has gone.

I’m not completely sad about this though. I do like the winter, and the different challenges it brings. I’m a sucker for seasonality. In fact one of the very first posts I wrote for Real Men Sow was Winter reasons to be cheerful, way back in 2010 (5 years on maybe, it is time to update that…).

As well as being cheerful, now is also a good time to do some important pre-winter jobs. I started by digging up and storing my potatoes, which needs to be done before the soil gets too soggy or the spuds will rot.

Weeding Out Leeks
This gave me a chance to weed out my leeks too – now here’s a tip folks: don’t plant your leeks close to potatoes! In a quest to prove just how much I could squeeze into my garden raised beds, I put my pink fir apples in right next to the leeks.

The potatoes quickly took over and stifled the leeks. I’ve enjoyed a decent potato yield, but my leeks are rubbish, which greatly disappoints me as they’re one of my favourite crops. I’ve weeded the leeks now, and I reckon I’ll get a harvest, but not until next spring and the better weather.

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stifled leeks!

Releasing the Kale (maybe not just yet…)
I was getting ready to take the netting off my brassicas and give them some much needed freedom to grow on some more, but then I happen to see a rogue cabbage white fluttering around the back garden.

Cabbage whites have two generations over the summer, and as I’ve had two consecutive years of brassica massacres, I’m taking no risks this time. The net stays on until further notice!

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compressed kale!

Overwintering Onions
Last year, I overwintered a few rows on onions in my raised beds. Up until then, I hadn’t made a habit of this, but given that my space was more limited than it had been, I wanted to make as best use of it as possible. During winter, the plot stays largely empty, so I thought that a row of onions would be a nice bonus crop come Spring.

Not only am I still using up the harvest from last winter’s onions, they were out of the ground by the time I needed the space for spring crops, so after this success I’ll be putting bulbs in again this coming weekend.

The traditional advice is to plant onions on the shortest day and harvest on the longest, but I like to have them out of the way by then. I found last year that a September planting gave them a head start, so I could harvest earlier.

Harvesting Squashes
In my humble veg growing opinion, squashes are one of the very best allotment options. They’re tasty, expensive to buy, versatile, attractive and if kept right, store for ages. I found a squash a few weeks ago that has officially lasted longer than a pair of trainers I bought…

Knowing when to harvest and how to store the fruits properly is key for longevity, but isn’t difficult. I’ve stored squashes in my dining room, under the stairs and shed before, and they’ve still lasted until the following Spring.

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a *nearly ready to harvest* butternut squash

The Cycle Starts Again
There is a certain tinge of sadness associated with these jobs, but at the same time pride and satisfaction are bubbling away too. Final summer harvesting and tidying up for winter provides me with a warm and fuzzy feeling when I look back on what I’ve grown, and remember how it was used in the kitchen.

The clocks will soon change, and my beds will be covered in rotting manure rather than veg plants, but it’s a great feeling knowing you’re part of that cycle.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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