The sun is still high and the greenhouse lush and jungly, but it is time to start looking ahead to winter, and to what I will be eating from the garden then. The greenhouse must be pressed into service for nurturing young plants again, if I can only find some space… Happily with the weather warm most things can be sown or planted direct. In the next couple of weeks I am planning to sow some beetroot, carrots, winter radishes and turnips straight into the ground where gaps have opened up as I have grubbed up the broad beans and early lettuces.
I also plan to squeeze in some purple sprouting broccoli and oriental brassicas which will provide iron rich greens through winter and early spring. Inside the greenhouse I am starting to think about herbs, in particular mint, which will grow from root cuttings taken now. The trouble with mint of course is that it dies down in winter, and a plant that has been growing all summer is ready for its spell of rest by the time it turns cold. New cuttings will have vigour, and will be small enough for me to take them indoors and onto the kitchen windowsill. There they should have enough warmth to keep growing through winter, and to provide some welcome flavour when all else has died down.
There is really no great challenge to propagating mint, and there are good rewards. Anyone who has ever grown it knows that above all it wants to live, and it will elbow half a garden worth of plants out of the way in order to do so: plant some straight into the earth and wait six months and you will see its awesome power, in that it will start to spread its wiry white roots everywhere. We can make use of that now. If you have a pot of mint in the garden (and you should always grow it in a pot, unless you want half an acre of mint), tip it out and have a look at the rootball. The chances are that you will see these thick white roots winding their way around the edge of the rootball searching for their freedom.
From here propagation is simple. Take a terracotta pot (or plastic, but this is going to be in the house so choose terracotta for looks) that will fit onto your kitchen windowsill and three quarters fill it with multi-purpose compost. Tamp it down. Take secateurs or scissors and snip the white root as high up as you can, where it first emerges from the rootball. You will have a length of white root with small tufts of root coming out at intervals. You can then chop this up into lengths a couple of inches long, it doesn’t really matter how long they are as long as each contains at least one of those tufts. Then lay then on the surface of the compost and cover well with a little more compost. Water and pop into the greenhouse until it gets going, and then as soon as there is the tiniest hint of autumn in the air place on your kitchen windowsill, as cold will give the plant the signal that it is time to die down. Shoots will soon start to emerge and you will have several plants in your little pot. That’s ok, this is only a short term herb pot, and you can split it or plant it into something bigger outdoors next spring. For now you shouldn’t really need to do much more than to keep this watered and pluck leaves from it as and when you need them all through winter.