A TASTE OF EASTERN PROMISE
Kitchen Garden|September 2021
The summer might be coming to an end, says Rob Smith, but there’s still time for some sowing, including a range of oriental veg
Rob Smith

As the year progresses most gardeners have sown a multitude of veg plants in the spring and into summer and are now happily harvesting the fruit of their labours. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that there is nothing to sow later in the year, as when it comes to sowing oriental veg, autumn is the new spring!

Most of the common oriental veg are from the brassica (cabbage) family and are pretty hardy. I’ve had mustard leaves happily sat under snow during the winter and been able to harvest them as a cut-and-come-again green, both for salads and to add to stir-fries. It really is quite amazing how some of these delicate-looking vegs can actually cope with the freezing temperatures and shorter days; in fact, they prefer it!

Anyone who has grown oriental veg before has probably made the rookie mistake of sowing too early, resulting in young plants bolting and going to seed before they even have chance to form a decent plant you can harvest. Oriental veg normally do better when sown in late July/August; I’ve even sown pak choi into the pots I’ve removed spent tomato plants from in September and they grow away happily, providing me with leaves and small plants during the winter and into the new year.

There are loads of different oriental veg to grow in the veg garden with ease, from the more popular pak choi and Chinese cabbage to the less well-known mizuna and kai lan (Chinese broccoli). In fact you can even buy packs of mixed oriental salad leaves if you aren’t sure what to grow.

SOWING AND GROWING

When it comes to sowing most oriental veg, you can sow them directly as you normally get lots of seeds in a packet, but you run the risk of slugs or birds decimating your young seedlings. I like to start my seeds off in modules with three or four seeds per cell and keep them in a cold frame or cold greenhouse until they are big enough to plant out and hold their own. When starting plants off like this you have to make sure the plants aren’t stressed in any way or they may bolt. Therefore don’t let them dry out at any stage or you’ll have to re-sow.

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