With our impending move getting closer and closer, my weekends are more loft clearance and tip trips than leisurely Autumn allotment sessions. I’m spending the little plot time that I have tidying up my raised beds and getting ready to pass the baton to the next person.
Working a plot that will no longer be yours in two months’ time is a funny feeling. There is a sense of pride in making sure it is given over in as good shape as possible, but there is also the strange thought processes when you remember that you’re giving it up. You think of the jobs you need to do, and then remember that you don’t need to do them, especially as I’ve not got anything sorted out for growing once we get to our new house.
One such job is overwintering crops. I became an overwintering convertee when I was growing veg primarily to save money. It was an excellent use of space during normally dormant times, and I got an early crop to help plug the early gap and keep outlay on veg as low as possible during this traditionally lean time.
Throughout October and November, the soil is still fairly warm, so seeds and bulbs will not only germinate but establish decent root systems before the winter arrives, so now is the perfect time to try overwintering some plants.
So, if I wasn’t relocating to the other side of the country with my wife and two crazy children, here are 4 veg I’d be overwintering now.
Broadies are the classic overwinterer and can be sown any time during September, October, or November. However, I tend to wait until November as I find earlier sowings can grow quite big and then get battered by severe winter weather.
Sowing in November gives just enough time for the seedlings to get their roots established but stay small and sheltered before Winter really gets going. Seeds sown directly in November can take up to a month to germinate, depending on where you are in the country, but come Spring, the plants lap up the longer days and warmer temperatures and grow on very happily. You can also sow in pots in the greenhouse ready for planting out in Spring.
For a reliable and proven overwintering variety, try Aquadulce Claudia.
Growing a good onion all the way from seed is a very satisfying feeling, but for an easier, faff free experience, try onion sets instead. Onion sets are baby onions that have already been growing for several weeks – all you have to do is poke them into the ground the right way up (that’s pointy bit upwards by the way!). I normally go for radar, which is a good variety for overwintering and can be planted between September and December.
Bear in mind that overwintering onions can take an age to be ready for harvest, and it is not uncommon for some varieties to take well over 40 weeks to reach maturity. If you’re short on space, think ahead before you plump for a row of onions – 40 weeks from now will take you well into next summer when you might want the space for something else.
Like onions, grow garlic from sets and plant any time during Autumn. They also take a long time to reach maturity, so again think of whether you might need the space for other veg. Make sure you plant the bulbs in a free-draining area as they will quickly rot if the soil becomes waterlogged.
Early Wight is one of the earliest autumn planting varieties and is ready to harvest in May.
Savvy gardeners who sow peas now will earn a month’s harvesting head start on neighbouring plotholders. Kelvedon Wonder, Meteor, and Douce Provence are all hardy varieties that will survive winter and crop at the beginning of Spring.
Like broad beans, you can also sow peas in the greenhouse in modules away from the bad weather, and plant out in Spring. Alternatively, try growing a row under plastic cloches for extra protection.