Gardening: Botanics staff reap a rich harvest

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SEPTEMBER has undeniably bought the change of season with it. The mornings are cooler, leaves are starting to fall and flocks of geese can be heard honking overhead.

The Royal Botanic Garden’s vegetable garden is at its most bountiful and staff are harvesting, storing and preserving their hard-earned crops.

They have pulled up a few parsnips and are constantly picking courgettes, French beans and runner beans. The leafy crops such as rainbow chard, lettuce and sorrel are doing well too. Sadly, the same can’t be said of the tomatoes. The pollinating insects were restricted by all the rain and don’t appear to have recovered, the fruits that have set are slow to turn red and are just not in a sunny enough position this year.

As autumn arrives, daylight hours diminish and temperatures fall, causing plant growth to slow down. However, a select group of vegetables will be able to germinate at this time of year and survive the colder months.

September is your last chance to sow winter salads for growing under cloches or in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Chrysanthemum greens, claytonia, choy sum, winter land cress and winter spinach are all suitable. Autumn onion sets can also be planted this month and into October for harvest next spring.

Plenty of time needs to be devoted to the aforementioned harvesting and storing of crops. Root crops can be kept in a cool dark place such as a shed, some crops such as peas and beans can be blanched and frozen. Chutneys, pickles and preserves are also a satisfying way to store crops throughout the year.

To find out more about harvesting and storing crops head along to the Harvest Festival at the Botanics tomorrow. It will take place in the John Hope Gateway and Demonstration Garden from 11am-5pm to celebrate the garden’s harvest.

With music in the afternoon from the Barrow Band, gardening advice, children’s activities, storytelling, Changeworks, Edinburgh and Midlothian Beekeepers and the Botanics’ very own Edible gardening team, the day promises to be great fun.

• The Edible Gardening Project is based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and teaches people the skills and knowledge they need to grow their own food. Run jointly with the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, the project is for those who are keen to grow their own but don’t know where to begin. For more details please go to rbge.org.uk/ediblegardening. Follow our blog ediblegardeningproject.wordpress.com