Go Organic: Longest day on the wayBy James Ashford
June 17, 2011
Tuesday is the longest day of the year. It happens at the same time every year but it always catches me by surprise.
This far north the summer’s almost over before it has begun.
Midsummer’s day is traditionally when you lift shallots, although it actually makes more sense to leave them in until their leaves start dying back.
Many plants respond to the changes in the length of night and day and use it as a trigger for flowering and fruiting.
Potatoes start putting their energy into tubers rather than leaves as the nights grow longer. Winter is on the way and they need to start storing fuel supplies for next year.
Onions and garlic are also sensitive to day length and the varieties we grow in the UK have been bred especially to cope. It is one of the reasons why you should buy seed garlic instead of using cloves from the supermarket. Most of the garlic we eat is grown in Spain and is not suitable for our longer days and nights.
But there’s still a lot of summer left and the changes at this time of year are almost imperceptible.
In fact this is when the vegetable garden starts to become really productive.
If you put in some early potatoes you can try lifting one or two to see if you have a decent crop yet.
Potatoes are usually ready to lift once they have flowered but not all varieties set flowers. The exceptionally dry weather earlier in the year may also have affected your spuds. You might find you have lots of potatoes but they’re all very small. If they are, just wait a few weeks and pray for more rain.
The first courgettes should be just about ready. You need to keep picking them to keep the plant producing more – and give them plenty of water if it’s dry.
You can easily end up with more courgettes than you know what to do with, so pick them when they’re small. They taste better that way and you don’t end up wasting them.