Come the end of summer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all you have to look forward to when working in your greenhouse is harvesting the fruits of your labour. But autumn is just as important as spring, meaning it’s a key time to prepare and get ahead for another season of growing.
Around the late September/early October period, the ground is still warm enough for seeds to germinate – especially in the current climate, where British summer time temperatures are expected to last longer than usual).
There’s a good range of crops that can be sown right through to the end of the month and some even later.
Here’s a list of crops you can try;
Sporadic light levels in the autumn can mean some late sown vegetables won’t flower or fruit, but leafy crops can grow sufficiently in the time remaining.
This means the likes of pak choi, winter cress, spicy oriental salad mixes and varieties of spinach are ideal for this time of year.
These types should germinate quickly and give you plenty of supply for stir fries, soups and leafy salads through to the first frosts.
If you have a greenhouse or cold frame you can sow winter lettuce varieties under glass.
‘Winter Density’ is one of the most popular and produces lovely tender hearts of lettuce through the cold months.
Broad beans and peas
The early sowing of broad beans and peas can be carried out from mid September until the beginning of November.
The main advantage of sowing early is that plants can establish over the winter period and flower/fruit earlier.
Most plants can withstand harsh, wintery conditions; but you will need to fleece younger plants during frosty nights and/or snowy conditions.
‘Super Aguadulce’ and ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ are two broad bean varieties that suit early sowings. ‘Feltham First’ is the most popular pea for early sowings.
Garlic can be planted from the autumn right through into February, providing the ground is not too hard or waterlogged.
If you plant seed potatoes in September in a pot, you can grow a crop to serve with your festive turkey.
The plants need to establish before the first frosts when they should be brought indoors to a sheltered spot. Keep watering and earthing up until December and dig up your crop of new potatoes on Christmas Eve.
This is key to getting your vegetable garden ready for the spring time and replenishing the nutrients in your soil at the end of the growing season.
If you’ve taken on a new greenhouse or allotment, or are planning to start a vegetable garden next year, you should cover soil and weeds with black plastic or carpet through the winter months. This should kill off any remaining weeds.
Alternatively, if your beds are clear, sow green manure of mustard seed or clover. This will keep free-ranging weed growth at bay and give you a nutritious crop to dig back in and enrich your soil.
Autumn is also a good time to add farmyard manure to bare soil. As long as you have no active growth in your beds, the manure doesn’t have to be quite so well-rotted down. Spread a thick layer over beds to act as a deterrent to weeds while the winter frosts and snow break it down.
When spring comes round, you will be ready to dig over your beds and start planting your new crops into weed-free, fertile soil.