I hardly like to use the B word – Brexit that is, but you may have seen suggestions on t.v and in the media that the way to beat possible shortages post Brexit is to grow your own. A bit late for this advice for a lot of things and if you’re worried about your avocado supply definitely far too late! Its not too late though, to grow some quick turn round crops and to plant now for overwintering for some early harvests next year.
Leafy greens like Spinach, Kale and Chard will germinate quickly in the still warm soil and if you give them a little protection when it gets colder, with fleece cloches, they will continue to crop well into autumn. I have such a problem with pigeons that I always grow these tempting greens under cloches in any case. Good varieties of Spinach for a late sowing are “Emilia”, “Mikado”, “Polar Bear” and an interesting red stemmed variety “Red Cardinal”. The Kale “Nero de Toscana” is good for a late sowing as is Kale” Starbor” (Thompson and Morgan seeds) which can be grown indoors or outdoors all year round for either baby salad leaves or a mature crop. Also tough, in all but the coldest weather, and visually cheery in the garden, is the multicoloured Chard “Bright Lights”. Perpetual Spinach (or Spinach Beet) is another good bet to see you through a few months. An Italian favourite for late sowing is Broccoli Raab, which isn’t really broccoli but a fast growing similar type of greens.Usually sold as ” Broccoli Raab 60 day seeds” (Mr Fothergill Seeds offer this), as the name suggests its ready after 2 months and the whole plant can be harvested as leaves, stems and flower buds can all be eaten.
For autumn/winter salads there’s certainly time for one last crop of radishes and Spring Onion “White Lisbon” can be planted this month. Ideal for autumn and early winter use and with outstanding weather resistance the red chicory Radicchio “Rossa di Treviso precoce” can also be used as a salad leaf and can be planted outside up until mid September. Both Winter Purslane leaves and Corn salad, (also know as Lambs Lettuce), can be sown outside right through to mid October. The easy to grow lambs lettuce with its upright leaves is good in salad or steamed as a hot vegetable while winter purslane is a really juicy salad leaf.
Pak choi and some of the specially bred lettuces for late sowing may need a bit of protection, but there is time for crops of these too before the cold weather. Lettuces such as “Arctic King”, “Winter Gem” and “Winter Density” and the “All Year Round” Butterhead lettuce have been specially bred to withstand cold weather and will last until late autumn in a normal year. Alternatively you could grow ‘cut and come again’ salad greens in trays or bowls on a sunny windowsill indoors for a fast turn round.
For an early harvest next year, now is the time to plant your onion sets and shallots. Most of the main seed suppliers have offers running now for autumn planting onions such as “Hi Tec”,” Radar”, “Senshyu”, and “Snowball” and for autumn planted shallots such as “Griselle” and my personal favourite, the copper coloured “Jermor” . Just make sure when you order that it is an autumn not spring planting variety you’ve chosen or you’ll have a long wait for delivery!
Garlic should also go into the ground soon, if we have a mild winter and garlic doesn’t get cold enough it won’t form into cloves, but will grow as a single bulb, like an onion, so is best planted by November.
Its a bit risky, but its worth trying to over winter peas and broad beans for a really early crop next year. They both need protection from the elements and birds, so will need to be covered with cloches, but Broad Bean” Aqua Dulce Claudia” and Peas “Kelvedon Wonder” and “Meteor” will survive an average winter and produce good crops by the beginning of May, a good month to 6 weeks earlier than spring planted crops.
Who knows if this will be enough to fill any ‘Brexit Gap’ that might arise, but at least some late gardening will give us all something else to think about!