Gardeners are always one step ahead, and with only a few weeks of summer harvest left it’s time to get ready to rev up veg beds and flower borders again for autumn and winter. Right now you’ll find me sowing winter salads to refill the greenhouse, and scattering some hardy annuals for a burst of early colour next year!
More seed sowing advice:
August seed sowing inspiration
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Winter varieties like 'Marvel of the Four Seasons' or 'Black Seeded Simpson' don’t mind a bit of cold. I sow them now so they’re sturdy young plants by the time the greenhouse tomatoes are finished; then I plant them straight into the cleared borders and they’re ready for picking by winter. You can grow them outside under cloches, too.
I love the mildly spicy, umami flavours of Asian leaves like mizuna, ‘Red Frills’ mustard and pak choi, picked young and tender to spice up my winter salads. They’re really useful late-season crops which grow best as the days shorten: sow them direct, or raise in pots to plant out later.
I give up on spinach in summer as it bolts so easily if it gets hot or dry. But if I sow some now, it does much better for me and stays leafier in the cool and damp of autumn. Classic cold-weather varieties like ‘Giant Winter’ keep you in all the nutritious leafy greens you can eat till spring.
Timing is everything with spring cabbages. Sowing this month is a pretty good bet: but I’ll usually sow another batch next month too just in case we have a warm autumn and they mature too soon. I want sturdy young plants by November so I’ll be picking armfuls of sweet loose-leaf greens from February – a real early spring treat.
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I adore phacelia for its fuzzy, lavender blue flowers, full of nectar and buzzing with bees. But it’s also useful as green manure to protect my emptying veg beds over winter. Scatter the seed this month and they’ve just enough time to flower before frost cuts them down – then the debris protects your soil like a blanket through winter.
Pot marigolds are a real favourite in my garden for their sunny flowers – I like scattering the edible petals onto my salads too. Once you’ve got them in your garden, you’ll never be without – I just let mine self-seed where they will. But I’ll also collect some seed to sow into pots under cover now for extra-early blooms next year.
Whenever I’ve got a sunny, dry spot in the garden I scatter a few Californian poppy seeds: they’re the ultimate low-maintenance annual flowers, needing no watering or feeding, and make gorgeous pops of sunshiny colour for weeks in summer. They self-seed readily if they’re happy: sow some now and with luck the seedlings will overwinter for earlier flowers next year.
Cornflowers make wonderful cut flowers: they’ve got strong, straight stems and the flowers last ages, so they’re a regular in my cutting garden as well as in the main flower borders. I grow both chocolatey purple ‘Black Ball’ and the classic ‘Blue Diadem’ – sow now, thin seedlings to 20cm apart and you can fill your vases from late spring next year.