With one month of autumn down, it is time to get busy removing the last of the summer crops and planting out seedlings of vegetable essentials to keep fresh vege on the menu throughout winter.
Feed the roots. It is essential to replenish the soil before planting anything new. Over summer the soil works very hard to provide the nutrients and moisture crops need to flourish. Hence it is vital to reward and revitalise the ground before planting autumn crops. Compost will do the trick, or some well-rotted animal manure – I like sheep, pig or chicken manure. After blending all that in, give the soil a huge drink before planting out anything new.
This crop could be a staple at everyone’s home and office. The trick with it is t o avoid growing it over the hottest months as it just loathes hot days and dry soils. Sow seeds now by sprinkling on top of the soil of a pot or straight in the garden. They will germinate in a fortnight with a little moisture every few days. Seedlings are available now too. I tend to look for the smaller ones, rather than the tall leggy ones, as they seem to transplant better. A regular drench in seaweed fertiliser keeps them thriving for months on end.
If you are a fan of this superfood you need to get it in the ground so it can get a couple of months’ growth under its belt before the soil gets too cold. Seedlings are best to use at this time of year, in most climates, however, if you are in the winterless north seeds will be fine. Ensure the soil is loose and friable so the roots can easily anchor themselves into it. Allow 10cm between each plant and remember, the leaves are edible and make a wonderful addition to fresh salads and slaws. A beaut option for patio plantings in tubs and raised beds as the leaves are so pretty.
These little peppery mouthfuls of goodness can go ‘one more round’ if you sow seeds this month. You may notice they are slightly slower to germinate, but once up, after a week to 10 days, they will readily form crisp roots over the following six weeks or so. The round marble-like types, rather than the long tapered varieties, seem to do better at this time of year. Sow in rows directly in the garden allowing 30cm between rows. Remember, the soil needs to be nice and fine to ensure you get an even crop – don’t sow the seeds to thickly.
Certainly one of the best leafy greens you can grow. It prefers the cooler seasons of spring and autumn as opposed to summer. Choose seedlings to put in now, as, in most parts of the country, seeds will be a little slow to establish themselves. And plant plenty. Poke them into pots and containers near the back door so you have fresh greens close as the nights draw in. Spinach will cope with a little shade; it is one of the few crops that won’t mind up to half a day of shade. This makes it a good option for those homes that don’t have all-day sunshine.
Unlike all the rest of the bean clan, these hardy campaigners grow in the colder months and need to get into the ground this month. Seed is widely available and germinates in a couple of weeks. Soaking it overnight in water will speed up germination. You will find plenty of punnets of seedlings around, too. They are a long-term crop that will be in the ground for a good six to eight months before harvest, so choose a spot that you won’t need for any other crops and a position away from strong winds. Space the seeds and/ or seedlings about 15cm apart. A sprinkle of vegetable fertiliser is highly recommended at planting time and again in the spring, as they are such a long-term crop, they chew through the nutrients in the soil. Use stakes and strings to stop the plants from flopping.
Did you know the tops of broad bean plants can be cooked and used like spinach? The entire plant can also be dug into the soil after harvest as a form of green manure.
Packed full of the wonderful flavours of aniseed and liquorice, this fast-growing vege enjoys the cooler months of the year. Both the foliage and the bulb can be eaten. Plant in a moistureretentive soil in full sun. Whilst it grows readily from seed, it’s best to choose seedlings now to give the plants a head start. Planting them in April will mean you will be harvesting them over winter. Don’t be stingy if you like these flavours; plant out a few punnets, it’s the sort of vegetable that suits stews and soups as much as it does salads and stir-fries.
Get busy replenishing your soil now with organic matter before getting your winter cabbages in the ground. Seedlings are by far your best bet, they are six weeks ahead of anything sown from seed. These beefy brassicas need a lot of room to grow, allow a good 50cm to 70cm between plants – unless you are planting the miniature ones, which can be crammed in a bit closer. Not only do cabbages taste good, but they are highly ornamental. The thick leathery leaves are always a focal point in my garden over winter, especially the purple and red ones, which look a picture when covered in frost. Try planting a few in tubs and planters, they will look fabulous.
Can you have too many superfoods in the garden? I don’t think so. Kale is a crop that really comes into its own in the autumn and winter. Choosing to plant seedlings is the best option now. However, if you like to use kale as a microgreen, go for it with seed. If you are part of the ever-growing ‘smoothie’ revolution you will need to plant plenty. Consider planting them at the office, too. Try some different-coloured varieties, nutritionally they seem to be similar, but the colours and textures of the different types look wonderful on the plate. Kale is an easy-to-grow happy crop, ideal for beginner gardeners and kids, too. It easily adapts to life growing in tubs and containers, to get the best results plant it in the best possible soil. And when it comes to harvesting, it can be picked leaf by leaf, a new crop will grow from the stalks that are left in the ground. Space seedlings about 30cm apart.
Last but not least from the brassica family this month is the Asian favourite, kohlrabi. Kids love this spaceship look-a-like, which forms its bulb just above the soil surface. These giant fist-sized vegetables are quick-growing, reaching maturity within a couple of months from planting out. Both the crisp bulb-like head and leaves can be eaten. It enjoys the same sort of conditions as cabbage and kale, however, it is smaller growing so space it at 15-20cm apart. Peel and slice it into salads and slaws, and use it in stir-fries, soups and curries.