Picking your remaining crops
As the weather starts to turn cool, it's time to start thinking about picking any remaining fruits and vegetables from your garden. September is one of your last chances to harvest, and while the end of summer may be bittersweet, it's also an exciting time to reap the rewards of your hard work throughout the growing season. A lot of crops reach their peak around this time of year, which makes it a bumper time. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting out, taking the time to properly pick and store your produce can make all the difference in enjoying fresh, homegrown fruits and vegetables well into the autumn and winter. So, grab your gardening gloves and get picking.
After two rounds of new potatoes, it’s finally time to cash in on your maincrop spuds. They’re usually ready to harvest from late August into October, but make sure you get them before the slugs do. The longer they’re in the ground, the more likely they are to get munched. Once the foliage has turned yellow, cut it off. Then give it a week or two before you dig them up. When you do, brush off any excess soil, let them air dry for a few hours, then stash them somewhere cool and dark over the winter, making sure they’re protected from frost.
Depending on the variety and weather, tomatoes typically start to ripen from the middle of the summer onwards. If you still have some on the vine in September, it’s pretty much now or never in terms of picking them. If you check every few days, you’ll usually find a few that you can harvest. As soon as you see any that are ripe and fully coloured, pick them individually and with the stalk still attached. Once the growing season comes to an end, you might come across some that refuse to ripen on the vine. Make sure to harvest them before the frost moves in and place them on a warm windowsill - they should still ripen.
Courgettes can be really prolific, which can leave you facing a glut. It’s best to cut them when they’re small (around 10cm is ideal), rather than leaving them to grow. Harvesting at this size encourages more to grow over a longer period. When they’re ready, cut them off at the base with a sharp knife or give the stalk a sharp twist and they should come away. Harvest them early in the day - this is when the water content is the highest and they’re at their juiciest. Be ready to use them right away, as they don’t keep for very long.
September is the beginning of the season for picking apples and pears that you’re going to store; otherwise, allow them to ripen on the tree. You’ll know when they’re ripe and ready by cupping the fruit in the palm of your hand and giving it a gentle twist. They should come away easily if they’re okay to harvest. Making sure they’re stored properly is key to them lasting. Put them in a dark, cool place where there’s no risk of frost. Popping them in a single layer in a wooden crate is a good way to make sure that they’re getting enough air.