Just because summer is coming to an end that doesn’t mean your work in the garden is over. Aside from pruning, clearing and repairing beds, there are seeds to be planted ready for summer. And don’t forget, there are seeds to go in which will grow over the winter too.
Onions and shallots are the nation’s favourite over-winter grower. Look out for autumn varieties such as ‘Echalote Grise’, which has been specially developed to produce an intense flavour. With these bulb vegetables, September to October is the time to plant and the good news is they are very independent. Simply prepare the ground, broadcast and cover. The winter months will then prep the seeds, which will awaken and grow in the early spring, giving you an early summer harvest.
As the name suggests, this salad crop just keeps coming and coming, and it doesn’t need to be planted in spring. An autumnal planting of perpetual spinach will ensure a good supply of tender young leaves over winter and into the new year. It will need to be protected from frost, however, so a cold frame is the best place to sow them.
Another greenhouse speciality is the winter carrot. When sown in November, early carrots such as the Adelaide will be ready with baby carrots in early spring. The Adelaide is also a very versatile carrot variety and can be sown outdoors throughout the summer too.
Very Hardy Annuals
But there are plenty of other seeds aside from vegetables that do best went planted in autumn. Several varieties of hardy annuals can go out in cloches from September to early November for early summer shows. Love-in-a-mist is one classic which does well in the UK and the Nigella Damascena variety is probably the best of these. Their pale blue flowers and wispy foliage are always a pleasure and can be easily dried. Ladybird poppies and Shirley poppies can also take advantage of an early head start. The Ladybird is a famous self-seeder and perhaps this is why autumn is its favourite time to be sown. The Shirley can be broadcast sown too but may require a little more care as it doesn’t like to compete. With these seeds, nothing is likely to be seen until spring but they will still need to be protected from the heaviest frosts. Sowing in cloches will help and horticultural fleece might be needed to stop the tiny seeds getting frost damage as they open.
So now you know, the end of summer is no excuse to put away the wellies! There are plenty more seeds to plant, you just need to take precautions. Tender young leaves are sensitive to cold weather and they can be prone to pests too. Keep an eye out for snails and slugs, and make sure you’re planting in an area which continues to get direct sunlight all year round.