The clocks have gone back here in the UK & the excitement of harvesting summer crops in abundance certainly feels like a distant memory. Frosty mornings are becoming a regular occurrence, tricking us into thinking it is time to put your garden to bed for the winter - but this does not have to be the case! Although they can be slower to germinate, there are plenty of vegetables that can been sown in Autumn and are happy to grow over the colder months. This week, I’ve made a start on a few essentials…
Like all great recipes, I started with Garlic (French). Usually, I would just plant garlic straight in the ground around 3 inches apart but I am in still in the process of tidying up the raised bed where they’ll be growing. So for now, they will grow in pots until I get round to it. Transferring them into the ground once they are more established shouldn’t be a problem, as they are very strong and hardy plants. To plant your Garlic, grab a pot with drainage holes & place each clove (point facing upwards) 1 inch deep into nutrient rich compost. It’s important to leave the clove in its paper-like casing, as this acts as a blanket to protect the clove from moisture and consequently rotting. Once the cloves are planted, water lightly to get them started, then sit back and wait! Be patient - garlic takes 9 months to grow after all!
This year I thought it would be nice to plant a bed solely for winter salad, not just to lower the costs of my weekly shop, but to reduce the amount of plastic I pick up from supermarkets. I always imagined that something as delicate as a salad leaf would be impossible to grow in lower temperatures and would result in wilting, but I was wrong- they can thrive! The only adjustment that needs to made it to project them from frosts with fleecing. When sowing my Lettuce, Spinach and Swiss Chard, I like to use the multi-sowing method. This is where you sow more than one seed (typically 4) in each modular cell or hole, meaning you get can 4x the crop in the same amount of space. Once the young plants are ready to plant out, you simple plant them in clumps, just like you would an individual plant. For more information on multi-sowing, Charles Dowding has shared his experience and advice here, which I found really helpful - https://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/learn/multisowing/
Finally, every slug and birds favourite, Cauliflower. I chose the reliable ‘All Year Round’ Variety produced by Mr.Fothergills and sowed one seed per module, around 2cm deep, in free draining soil. You can sow straight into the ground if you prefer, but to maximise the amount of seeds that germinate I like to play it safe and keep them under cover for the first 4 weeks. As cauliflower takes a lot of growing space, it’s ideal to grow it in winter when your beds are more empty than in the summer months. I’d recommend covering cauliflower plants with a fleece or netting because they are very likely to get lots of interest from surrounding wildlife.
That concludes my sowing for this week! Keeping the garden full of as much life as possible in the winter helps maintain my strong connection with the outdoors and stops me from being cooped up inside the house for hours on end. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy being outside in the rain and getting covered head to toe in mud. It makes the cup of tea that will greet me after the hard work all the better.