Just where has the year gone?
If, like me, this year has left you floundering under the problems of slugaggeddon, rubbish Spring weather and slow ripening tomatoes, you might actually be quite happy to take your mind off Summer time crops.
The good news is that there are still plenty of seeds that can be sown in August – here are 6 of my favourites.
Every year, I sow a couple of rows of French beans between late July and mid August, specifically to be bagged up a frozen. French beans are so prolific that keeping up with the harvests takes some doing, so if makes sense to freeze a crop for using during Winter.
This adds some variation to the leafy Winter brassicas, and saves some cash too when harvests are lean during January and February.
Perpetual Spinach and Chard
A sowing now of these leafy, cut and come again greens should see you in crops for the whole of winter. They’re incredibly easy to grow and very hardy.
The seeds are best sown straight into the ground, where they will germinate within a week this time of year. Thin out to a few inches apart and keep watered until established.
I like to start spring greens off in pots during August and September, to transplant when 15cm or so high. I sow seeds every couple of weeks, so to get a staggered harvest towards between January and March.
Hispi is my favourite variety, having always found them reliable and hardy.
I always find a handful of crispy spring cabbage leaves very welcome during the lean winter times.
Oriental Salad Greens
I have grown these spiky, peppery salad leaves for a number of years now, after discovering the excellent Mibuna and Mizuna. I can’t recommend them enough – they taste delicious, and being cut and come again, are hardy enough to keep you in salad beyond Christmas.
Normally, the only thing to kill these toughies is the snow, but if you have a greenhouse or some plastic protection the leaves will survive pretty much anything Winter can throw at them.
I sow pak choi in August as it isn’t a big fan of the heat, so early sowings can often bolt. By August the days are getting shorter, and I’ve experienced better results by waiting.
When I’m growing pak choi, I sow into small pots of multi-purpose compost rather than directly into the ground. Once they’re about 10 – 15cm high, I plant the pak choi out in rows, 25cm or so apart.
They’ve only got small roots, so will need regular watering, but the plants are hardy and will happily sit in the ground for a few weeks beyond Autumn.
I keep sowing mangetout into August, and have harvested as late as October in previous years. Like French beans, mangetout freezes well, so any glut can be frozen for use in Winter.
Varieties I’ve found reliable are Oregon Sugar Pod or Carouby de Maussane. Oregon Sugar Pod is fairly compact and grows well in a container, so can be moved undercover if you’ve got a greenhouse.