Now is the ideal time to sow many different kinds of vegetables and herbs, for cropping through the winter and into next spring, and beyond!
September …. so much to harvest and preserve: ripening fruit, squashes, courgettes are still cropping even though looking past their best. My polytunnel is still full of tomatoes, aubergines, herbs, some melons and a few cucumbers, but things are certainly slowing down. The hedgerows are dripping with ripe berries!
Inside the polytunnel, leaves are starting to shrivel or spotted with brown. This is completely normal, a natural process and nothing to worry about – you can still compost them. The sweet potatoes are growing luxuriously, it will be some time yet before I harvest those, and I am snacking on ripe, juicy grapes whenever I’m in there from my three grape vines. My tomatoes are feeling defiant about the autumn, sending out side shoots as soon as my back is turned!
Over the next week I’ll be sowing everything for my polytunnel and other winter spaces. Many of these seeds can also be grown outside with protection, such as a homemade cloche covered with polythene, enviromesh or fleece (25 -30 gsm)
In this recent post, I explained what I was sowing for mostly outdoor planting. The seeds have all become lovely transplants now – many are already in the ground, others are going out tomorrow. They were supposed to be planted this afternoon but I hung my washing out at lunchtime which seemed to change the weather and it has been raining steadily since then. Outside my window towels are dripping on the line, becoming increasingly wetter as the rain continues. I’m hoping tomorrow will be dry and breezy as wrestling heavy, soggy towels off the line is not much fun!
I have my selection of seeds ready to take to the greenhouse tomorrow for sowing, including some home saved Grenoble Red seed and a packet of seed saved by Matthew Croft: his own home saved Bronze Arrow Lettuce. I am looking forward to trying this lettuce out over the winter.
Matthew is a member of our no dig Facebook group. I set this up a few years ago, expecting to have around 100 members sharing photos and ideas. We now have over 17,000 members! It’s run by me and a small team of admin (there are five of us). I don’t think any of us can quite believe how busy it is.
As for August, some of the seeds are sown into seed trays and then pricked out: others are sown into modules either singly or multi sown. I explain how in this blog. And this one. I did a series explaining what to sow to ensure no hungry gap – use that tag “no hungry gap” on this blog to find all of the posts in that series explaining how to crop year round.
I am in Somerset. Days are getting shorter and temperatures lower. People living further north really could do with having everything sown by the end of the weekend. Here in Somerset and further south, you should be ok for another week or so. If you can’t then still give it a go, if you have the space free.
Look at your weather forecast too. If you’re away at the weekend for example, there’s no one to water and it looks sunny, consider leaving sowings for your return so that they don’t germinate and then frazzle – it can become surprisingly hot even in September in greenhouses.
I’ve got some home saved garlic ready and have placed orders for some others – awaiting the delivery! Some goes in the polytunnel, most in the garden. That’s planted in October. Broad beans will go in during late October/November with some popped into the polytunnel for a few early beans.
My polytunnel is 12 x 40 ft – that’s why I grow so much! Choose what you fancy from this list. I hope I have explained what can also fare well outside but if I’ve missed something out do comment and I’ll explain.
Here are some polytunnel photos with dates to give an idea of what one can produce at different times during the winter.
I’ve been growing undercover in my polytunnel for 8 or 9 years, and in market gardens for 11 or so, and outside for around 30 years, So I’ve got a lot of experience of growing year round in all kinds of winters.
Seeds for sowing over the next week or so.
Directly into the soil
Carrots – mostly Nantes, Manchester Table Carrot and Autumn King.
I’m trying other different varieties this year too, will let you know how it goes. All of mine are for the polytunnel except for an experiment under fleece, it’s a bit late now for outside carrots but as the seeds don’t keep well, if you have some spare seed and space, give it a try! We can compare notes next April.
Green manures – field beans, agricultural mustard Sinapsis Alba, Caliente mustard and crimson clover.
I use these because none need to be dug in. The mustards and clover will die off in the frosts and the field beans are cut at ground level before harvesting, useful composting materials. There isn’t much space for green manures as the beds are mainly full, however I use them underneath fruit bushes and places like that, as well as any odd spaces. Charles uses Sinapsis Alba in some of his experimental beds.
land cress, claytonia and purslane
Radish – mostly winter varieties but experimenting with some others.
For growing undercover – these are almost all for my polytunnel and greenhouse. If you don’t have these, make cloches from hoops and polythene. They all appreciate some protection.
I grow lettuces, onions, rocket, mustards, oriental greens and brassicas outside over winter in the beds at Hauser and Wirth with no protection and although frost and snow knocks them back, they still produce a worthwhile crop in the spring. Worth considering if you live in the milder areas of the UK. Doubt it would work in Yorkshire (where I am from).
Lettuces – mostly Grenoble Red (home saved seed) plus Bronze Arrow, Winter Marvel, Jack ice, Red Iceberg and some of Charles’ home saved seed that I am picking up tomorrow (I forget the name!)
Onions – white lisbon, read beard, bunching onion “Kyoto market”, feast.
White Lisbon is especially good value as it produces slender onions ideal for stir fries and salads and then, in later spring, small round onions for cooking. I have found here in Somerset that all the spring onions over winter outside well too. Make them cosy with some fleece or polythene when the winter starts to become harsh.
Herbs – dill, coriander, chervil, parsley (curly and flat leaf), rocket, wild rocket, wasabi rocket
Dill can get knocked out by really bad weather even under cover, the rest are more resistant.
Mustards and oriental greens – red mustard, red frills, Osaka purple mustard greens, Nine headed bird mustard, Golden Frills, Red Frills, Dragon’s Tongue, pak choi, and many others
Wonderful for salads (pick leaves small) and stir fries. In the spring, leave some to flower to bring in the beneficial predators.
Spinach – viroflex giant spinach, medania, Amazon F1 (a trial, free seeds from Kitchen Garden Mag, from Kings)
Chard – any swiss chard will be fab
Beetroot for leaves – any, they are unlikely to produce roots before bolting, but will make delicious leaves
Endives – these seed packets are in the greenhouse and it is pouring down (!) but I grow various endives over winter
Funky brassicas and greens – spigariello, Huazontle, Rapa Senza Testa, San Marzano, Green Days Eighty, Wa Wa Cai Choi, Hon Tsai Tai, Broccoli Raab, all kinds of kale: Cavolo Nero, Red Russian, Dazzling Blue, Red Ruffled, True Siberian, Red Ruble
Most of the strange sounding ones are from Real Seeds. I grow 2-3 of each variety and oh the joy of the leaves and shoots during the winter months. They are sweeter and more tender in the polytunnel/greenhouse but will grow outside too.
Spring Cabbage – Durham Early, Greyhound, Piacenza, Wheelers Imperial, April
All of these can go outside too but will be later than August sown spring cabbage and may bolt before hearting – not a great worry as they make fabulous spring greens. Under cover, they usually heart unless we have bonkers warm weather in February again!
Peas – Havel, Douce Provence, Oskar
Short growing over winter peas are ideal for earlier pickings. These will also grow outside. I prefer peas that don’t need sticks because the polytunnel is also used as a place to dry my washing in the winter (!) but I will try a few taller varieties too.
Plus left over peas – any variety – for pea shoots. I mix up odds and ends of seed packets and sow 3 into a module, or broadcast over a large pot or tray, for picking as salad pea shoots, which are also tasty in stir fries. Fine on window sills and green house shelves, too – a very versatile crop.
You can grow these cheaply from marrow fat peas from supermarkets, but they are sweeter and more vigorous from sugar and regular peas.
Florence fennel – Solaris and Finale are very reliable over winter. I also grow Mantovano and Colossale.