The summer is almost at an end, most of your spring and summer crops have probably now been pulled up leaving your pots and vegetable patches looking in a bit of a sorry state. But the turn of summer to autumn doesn’t necessarily mean putting away the green fingers and tools for the next 4-5 months. On the contrary, some crops are ideal to plant in September for winter crops. Planting the right things, at the right time, and with the right conditions could mean seeds put in the ground now could make its way onto your Christmas Dinner plate.
It’s hard to believe that legumes were once the staple of the British diet, but it was before the arrival of the potato to our shores. Poorer people especially lived on pottage because beans are easy to grow, have a high yield and a long shelf life. Gardeners may plant broad beans anywhere between early mid-September and late October and they’ll grow quite happily in most conditions. The added advantage is that they won’t get black fly at this time of year. Pick the early harvests from the top and it will slow pod production. With a bit of careful management and some luck, you’ll have broad beans right through to the end of winter.
Usually a seed to plant in spring, some varieties of pea will also grow quite happily in the autumn and winter. Particularly in the milder areas of the country such as the south coast all the way from Cornwall to Kent. For everyone else, the earlier in autumn the better it will be, while some areas should aim to plant in late summer (mid to late September). You’ll get a good crop by the end of winter and just into spring. Perfect for those early-mid March stews and casseroles before you start to feel the need to eat more salad and less in the way of heavy food.
Onions (Various Varieties)
Most people have a love/hate relationship with onions, but they are certainly diverse, acting as a great flavouring as well as a vegetable, going in casseroles, stews, salads, and pizza toppings. Onions are a hardy plant and many species are suitable to plant in autumn. The aptly named White Lisbon Winter Hardy is a good bet and you’ll be cropping towards the end of winter, once again ideal for those casseroles, stews, and even curries. For those who prefer onions a little sweeter and like to put them in oriental food, you’ll be delighted to learn that autumn is a good time for shallot seeds.
Several Varieties of Lettuce
Lettuce is a spring staple, but you’ll be surprised to learn of several hardy types that are perfect to plant through September and October for harvesting around the Christmas period. Lamb’s Lettuce is one variety; several others will grow happily during a mild winter typical on the south coast – make sure you check the dates on the seed packets. In other areas, you may need polyethene sheeting to simulate a milder environment. Plant now and you can make the perfect prawn cocktail starter for your Christmas or New Year dinner.
Most of us barely go a day without eating potato regardless of the time of year. Most potato varieties will grow happily most of the year in the UK. The trick is making sure the plant establishes before the first frosts appear. Depending on where you live in the UK, that could be as early as late September or as late as November. Make sure you don’t let the ground get too waterlogged. Some gardeners tend to plant seed potatoes in elevated pots at this time of year. This protects against waterlogging and frost.