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Gardening: Ripe time, ripe place to start growing autumn’s goodies but watch out for sneaky slugs

© Shutterstock / SOLOVEVA ANASTASIGooseberries must be picked as soon as they are ripe
Gooseberries must be picked as soon as they are ripe

At this time of year vegetable plots are full to bursting with ripening produce, but as spent crops are cleared away spaces should be appearing that you can fill with other things.

To keep up a supply of fresh salads into autumn, sow an oriental leaf mix into trays and prick out into modules then plant out once a good root system has been formed. Make sure that you protect these against slugs, which have been making the most of the warm, damp summer.

Oriental vegetables grow well in the autumn, so you could also use the space to grow pak choi for stir fries.

Meanwhile, check all members of the brassica family for signs of caterpillars, removing these by hand where you find them. If you can, grow cabbages and kale under nets to prevent cabbage white butterflies from laying their eggs.

Keep picking courgettes and feed them regularly, along with pumpkins and any other squashes. And raise pumpkins off the ground on straw as they grow to ensure unblemished fruits and even ripening.

Strawberries are making runners at the moment, so peg these into small pots and sever from the host plant once roots have formed. Next year remove any fruit that forms in order to create strong plants that will produce better crops in future.

If there are any gooseberries left to pick, then take these as soon as they are ripe and either use now or freeze for later. Gooseberries are summer-pruned in early July so there’s no need to do anything now until winter, when the lead shoots should be reduced by half and the side shoots taken back to two buds. The aim is to create an open centre to the bushes to allow for air and light circulation in order to boost fruit production and avoid mildew.

With summer raspberries, however, this year’s fruiting canes should be removed as soon as the fruit has been picked, then tie in around six or eight of this year’s new canes and remove any remaining new growth at ground level.

Autumn fruiting raspberries are simpler to care for, you just cut these to the ground in February, but if you do leave a few canes, reducing them to one metre in height, then they will provide an earlier crop next year. Where space in the vegetable garden is limited and only autumn raspberries are grown, then it’s worth double-cropping in this way.