Many gardeners stop sowing seeds at this time of year and concentrate on harvesting, but with a little thought salads and the vegetables can carry on cropping through to late autumn, and, if you have some cloches or a cold greenhouse through to next spring.
Ignore the backs of seed packets and sow lettuce now, the cut and come again varieties such as Lollo Rossa and Salad Bowl are particularly successful, but any variety can be used. I use up my old packets of lettuce seeds by sowing them in a 2cm deep trench about 6cm wide. I water the trench well with several cans of water before sprinkling the seed on thickly and covering over lightly with soil. Water over the top about twice a week using a can with a rose on it. A watering can is much gentler than a hose which can cause a ‘cap’ on the soil, a hard layer that seedlings cannot break through.
When the seedlings come through gradually thin them out, using the thinnings in salads. You should eventually end up with plants about 20cm apart to grow to full size.
If the weather is still hot sow the lettuce in the evening when it is cooler, it will not germinate in temperatures above 21 C.
Other crops to be sown in this way are Rocket, Mustards, Chard, and Endives. These are also hardy and will carry on cropping through the winter if you can give them protection, and indeed leaf Coriander grows best in cool weather, producing a large leafy crop early in spring.
If you are tight for space, cut and come again crops will grow successfully in trays on a cool windowsill. Also try Pak Choi, Beetroot and Coriander in pots as micro-greens.
Have you ever eaten Pea-shoots? Try growing your own now by sowing pea seeds, any variety, thickly in a pot. Give them a good soak and place on a cool windowsill, as soon as they are big enough you can pick your own for a tasty salad.
Regarding peas, it is worth trying to squeeze in a crop of mangetout or snap peas now (I like Sugar Snap Delikett). They will germinate very quickly in the warm soil, although I tend to sow them in trays to avoid the mice eating them. Old bedding trays are ideal for this, sow 3 seeds to a module and soak well, keeping the compost moist until they germinate. Then plant out when they are about 3cm high. Provide some netting for them to climb up and protect against pigeons. If they aren’t cropping by the end of October, you can always eat them as pea shoots.
If you do have somewhere sheltered for winter, try sowing a late crop of Dwarf French Beans such as Compass in large pots which can then be moved into shelter when the nights get cold.
I have just sown Mooli Radish, and Radish Black Spanish Round on my allotment, to start pulling in October. They are great sliced in salads or stir-fry and Black Radish will hold in the ground through until spring.
Crops to sow outside now for winter pickings are Spinach Beet and Swiss Chard. Swiss Chard is an excellent multipurpose vegetable. The leaves are used as spinach and the stems are good in Thai Green curry or steamed with fish.
With any late summer and autumn plantings, be prepared to have some failures. Every year is different, and a disaster this year may be a glut the following year. Every year I sow Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia in mid-October. Some years they fail, others they may have a small early crop, but the years like this year that they crop well more than make up for any failures!
Have fun experimenting!
Seeds to sow now
August and September October and November
Cabbage Broad Beans
Coriander Green Manures
Dwarf Beans Peas
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