22 Aug 2014

There's still time ...

… to sow a few seeds before late summer turns into autumn.

Having planted out my winter veg and cleared the last of the peas, I really want something else to look forward to.  I remember the first year my friends and I started the veg patch: by the time we were ready to sow anything, it was mid-August. It was a warm month and, not knowing any better, we sowed what we had in our seed boxes.  As a reward for our optimism, we were helping ourselves to lettuce leaves before the year end although the beets were small and the spring onions spindly.  We protected the crops with fleece over a snowy winter and were eating fresh from the garden in early April. It was a lesson that, strangely, has not been repeated until now.


A couple of weeks ago, a quick trawl through my seed box showed what was possible.  I pulled out seeds that could be sown until late July, others that were best sown in August for a late autumn or early spring crop, and even more seeds to be sown in September to germinate ready for next year.

I've sowed ruby chard, two types of spinach, some radishes, rocket, parsley, shimonita onions, some quick growing baby carrots and several rows of lettuce - a butterhead 'Marvel of Four Seasons' and 'Salad Bowl', a cos type.  And just in case we have a nice slow decline into winter, some beetroot for baby beets.  When I checked today, the warm rain of the past few days has coaxed all of the seeds into life.  I'll keep a watch for first frosts and then have to fleece the beds but the plants will be off to a good start by then.


There's also plenty of flowers best sown in the autumn for strong early plants next year.  My photo above shows a selection of what I'll be sowing: poppies, hollyhocks, wallflowers, nigella, calendula, honesty. (As well as more tulips.) My spring-sown flowers didn't do well this year and I'm planning for better next year.

My bedtime reading at the moment is Charles Dowding's book 'How to Grow Winter Vegetables'. It's an excellent informative read from a very experienced grower and one that I would recommend for anyone wanting to keep their plot going through the winter months. (I haven't been asked to promote this! It's a book I bought last year and am only just getting round to reading.)

I'm going to prune the plum trees this weekend. Stoned fruit trees need to have any essential pruning done in the summer months, preferably after fruiting. Leaving it much later (as in I should probably have done it already) will leave the pruning wounds vulnerable to possible airborne viruses; doing it now gives the cuts time to heal over before the tree goes into dormancy. I'm going to take a few branches out of the centre to let in light and air, hopefully with better fruiting results next year. And if there's time leftover, I'll be tidying and weeding some space for my next seed sowing session.

Like I said, there's still time to sow. :)

34 comments:

  1. We're hoping to extend our salad season this year.

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    1. Every year I kick myself for not getting organised in the autumn, Sue. It's usually too late by the time I think of resowing!

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  2. Yes, it seems too early to stop sowing. I try to extend the growing season by the use of cloches, which work quite well for some things. Have you tried growing Radicchio? It's not only good in salads, but also a very decorative plant, as it gets redder as the weather gets cooler.

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    1. It was the autumnal weather and empty beds that prompted me to start resowing, always trying for one last harvest before the year end! I haven't tried radicchio, Mark; I might pick some up in the shops to see if I like it first. I'm growing curly red kale as part of my winter veg selection which I think will do the same. Tozer brussels sprouts are another colourful addition to the veg patch, they go a wonderful purple colour!

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  3. I think I'll plant some radishes and rocket too. My radishes never work in the summer, although they're usually fine in the spring. So I'll try them now and maybe they will like the cooler weather. I love that you all planted lots of things at the beginning and they did well, a really positive and encouraging start I think. Have a good weekend Caro. CJ xx

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    1. Same here, CJ - my early radishes were much better (the ones that the slugs didn't get first) - they really need a lot of watering for the roots to swell and then will grow very quickly. I'd better add watering to my weekend tasks as there's no rain forecast until the Notting Hill Carnival on Monday! Those early harvests were great, especially as lots of friends were involved with the garden. Hope you have a good weekend as well CJ. C xx

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  4. Ahhh.larkspur, one of my all time favourites, it's flowering in my garden at the moment. You are right, there are so many plants we can still grow, I keep meaning to sort my veggie patch but never seen to have the time, it's still full of spuds, carrots and beets amongst other things. I'll be interested to see how your seedling get on, it'll be great if you get a harvest. Good luck pruning your plum!xxx

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    1. I've not grown it before, Dina, but had a packet of free seeds with a magazine so thought I'd give them a go. Lovely to have some things still growing in the veg patch, I've yet to empty my potato bags, a job I always look forward to - like finding buried treasure! The veggies will wait though, you're time is very well spent looking after the animals at the rescue centre which I love reading about! Have a great weekend, Dina. Cxx

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  5. Coincidentally I've sown salad leaves for winter today, plus spinach and spring onions. It's the first time I've done this, so it'll be interesting to see how they turn out.

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    1. Oh snap! We'll be able to compare notes - your Devon beds vs my London ones. Both mild climates, so here's hoping for success for both (or all) of us!

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  6. I sowed some carrots a few weeks ago but that's it for vegetables for this year. I hope to clear and dig over the growing areas by the end of October after which me and plot will have a winter break. I let the annual flowers I grow self seed, and will sow more in the spring.
    I've got a yet to be published book on the history of allotments on the way to me to read and review. Flighty xx

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    1. I hope your carrots do well for you, Flighty. It's a good idea to give the plot a break, time to mulch and improve the soil, etc. If I had a bit more space, I'd definitely be doing the same but I'll just mulch around what I have growing - and I'm looking forward to broccoli come spring, it's my favourite veg!

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  7. Thanks for the tip on plum tree pruning - we have three plum trees in the new garden and I was wondering when they needed to be sorted out. I've also discovered a new seed company from your first photo. I hadn't come across 'More Veg' before... the website looks interesting with veg I haven't been able to get elsewhere. So thank you again!

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    1. Very basic rule of thumb for pruning is fruit with stones in the late summer after fruiting, other fruit in the winter months when dormant so Jan, Feb time. Often established trees don't need any pruning but the mantra if you do want to prune is "dead, diseased, dying" - and, of course, shaping! Hope you'll let us know how you get on!

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    2. Also, really pleased that I've introduced you to More Veg. There's just a few seeds in each pack so perfect for smaller spaces and for trying out new veg - in fact, I'll be reordering from them as their seeds are good; my cape gooseberry came from their seeds and it's been very productive so I want more!

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    3. Thanks - I'll have a go with the tree that's finished fruiting this weekend. But the Victoria is only just ripening now, so I guess I'll need to wait with that one.

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    4. Yes, definitely wait! I envy you having lots of plums; I wish my Victoria plum would hurry up and fruit, I love plums!

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  8. Thanks for the inspiration, I must get myself organised and sow some winter veg!

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    1. My winter veg were sown a couple of months back Pauline and it's the little plants that I put out. They were previously growing in modules, then small pots, on my balcony so that the slugs wouldn't get them. Good luck with whatever you decide to grow!

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  9. I usually give up on my patch by sept but I'm planting chard and rocket too for winter greens. Fingers crossed they'll take!

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    1. I've done likewise in previous years but the seeds that I've sown this year are already up and looking good! It's rather exciting to have more veg to look forward to - chard and rocket should do well for you and try some successional sowing as well so that it doesn't all crop at once.

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  10. Ghosh, you are organised! I really enjoyed Charles Dowding’s book on organic gardening so I'll have to give the one on winter veg a go too.

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    1. He's well worth reading, isn't he! I bought winter veg after reading his book on salad leaves and now I'd quite like to go on one of his courses but Devon is bit far for me. Come spring, I always regret not having broccoli growing in the garden so I'm giving myself a pat on the back for having winter veg this year! :)

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  11. I like to think of September as the start of a new gardening year Caro so I'll be sowing a few seeds next week. I've already sown honesty, sweet rocket and sweet williams and will sow some orlaya, nicotiana mutablis, persicaria orientalis and some salad leaves. Possibly others - I'm still mulling it over. I like the sound of those spring onions. I have the same Charles Dowling tome in my bookshelf but have still to do it justice. Oh well there have to be some pluses to counteract the fact that the nights are already drawing in and reading is one of them.

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    1. I love the thought of starting the new gardening year in September, Anna - utterly brilliant and a bit like buying an academic year diary so that January sort of glides past in the middle rather being a Big Beginning. Thanks for reminding me about Orlaya, I need to get some seeds as I want to grow it next year, also nicotiana, a plant I admire in other gardens but have never grown. I really must make time to properly read more of the books on my bookshelf rather than just dipping in and out of them!

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  12. I moved house in the summer once and did late sowings. I had forgotten about that until your post reminded me. I usually sow Eschscholzia, Nigella and cornflowers in spring, but I think I'll give them a go now. I like the idea of sowing now, it moves them out of the mad spring rush. Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! Autumn sowing was one of the lessons I learned from my January workshop with Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter. He said the same thing! Why rush in April when you can spread the sowing throughout the year (except June/July) and get early colour in the garden? I've never applied it to flowers before but it makes a lot of sense.

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  13. It's a good idea to extend the season, or start the next one early, by sowing seeds now. I usually overwinter some spring onions, they've always done well and give me an early helping the following year.

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    1. I don't usually bother with spring onions but have been cooking far more stir fries this year so have needed them! It's the same with broccoli; I buy loads of broccoli and always regret I haven't planted more. Hopefully this year will be different.

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  14. I have been doing the same - sowing seeds in the hope of some late crops - it usually works and if the winter is mild then that is a bonus. I have the How to Grow Winter Vegetables book and it has really helped me to grow more over winter - an excellent book.

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    1. It's reading about your sowing and growing that inspires me, Elaine - you always have lovely healthy veg in your garden and it often reminds me of what I should be growing! Looking forward to reading about your winter crops!

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  15. p.s. I have also decided to start my veg growing blog up again after almost a year of indecision

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    1. Excellent news! I've missed your blog and will reinstate it in my sidebar at once! C xx

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  16. That's a lot of sowing. This is the time of year when I don't sow and then regret it in a few weeks. I'll be putting a few bits in this weekend after reading your post.

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