What to grow and when to grow it

Find out what to plant, grow, harvest and eat seasonally with 'Vegetables from an Italian Garden'
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Harvest and grow chart

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Vegetables from an Italian Garden shows how simple it can be to grow and cook your own vegetables and use the seasons to produce the best vegetables at the best times, just like the Italians.

Vegetables are at the heart of Italian cooking, and Italians have a natural instinct for selecting fresh produce at its very best and making the most of whatever is in season, whether it comes from the garden or the market. Markets all over Italy are stocked with spectacular and colourful displays of tomatoes, peppers, globe artichokes, broccoli, fennel bulbs, asparagus, chicory, carrots, aubergines – whatever is in season.

 

Spring

To grow spring vegetables successfully, add generous amounts of compost to the garden early in the season. Keep newly planted beds well weeded and watered. As seedlings grow, thin them out to give them space to expand. You can use the thinning in salads, getting your first taste of what is in store in a few weeks’ time in the spring garden.

Greens are sweetest and tenderest if they are allowed to mature while temperatures are still low. If exposed to heat or drought, they can become tough and bitter. Harvest greens in small quantities as and when you need them, and they will grow back for multiple harvests during the spring months.

 

Summer

The key to maintaining the summer garden is to stay on top of weeding, watering and staking. Even if the salad drawer in your refrigerator is already full of home-grown produce, it is important to keep picking summer vegetables as they mature. If you allow courgettes, beans, cucumbers and peppers to become over-sized, the plants will stop producing more fruit. Consider freezing, bottling or pickling your excess vegetables, or give them away to friends and family.

 

Autumn

By September, the root vegetables have grown bigger, with the cooler temperatures sweetening the flavours. Carrots, potatoes, beetroots and turnips dominate in the garden.

Harvest your root vegetables after the first cool weather for the best flavour, but do not hurry to harvest them all; root crops can be left in the garden for months, even in cold winter areas, and harvested as needed throughout the autumn and winter. However, if mice or other pests are enjoying your underground bounty, pull and store your root crops in a cool, dark cellar or shed.

 

Winter

Winter cooking provides the opportunity to exploit a narrower range of root crops and robust greens. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts can be harvested into early winter, with some overwintering varieties growing on into early spring. Plants need to have grown large enough by autumn to survive the winter. Watch for slugs and snails attacking the plants and control them using organic methods. The cold soil temperatures help to sweeten root vegetables, making them excellent additions to soups and stews.

By late winter it is time to remove the last of the root crops and brassicas, encourage new growth on remaining winter hardy greens with additions of fertilizer and prepare the ground for spring planting.


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