Gardening Tip – For the week 12th Sept. – 18th Sept.
Sowing seed now, for 2017.
Maybe the calendar traditionally begins its first leaf with the month of January but the gardener must begin a few months earlier, and the cold November, December is too late, we must start to sow some of next year’s seeds while the sun is still shining brightly and the soil is still warm. In truth, once you are into gardening the year never really begins or ends, whilst we are enjoying harvesting many veg crops from the allotment, we are already sowing vegetable seed for the coming year! Also many annual flowers will bloom better and earlier next year if they are sown now, giving them time to put on some initial growth before the onslaught of winter. This applies to many hardy annuals that can withstand frost. Just a few examples of some easy to grow showy annuals that will thank you for sowing them in September:
Calendula – The pot marigold – similar to African marigolds but much easier to grow from seed, single and double varieties available and good in a vase too.
Centaurea – Cornflower – classic blue flower – with few flowers available in the blue spectrum it makes a valuable addition to the garden and the vase.
Delphinium – Larkspur, – usually pink or white up to a metre high, the individual flowers are smaller than the perennial delphinium but still a very good flower in garden and vase .
Godetia,– only grows to around 35 cm. but the flowers are an interesting umbel of flowers hiding the leaves and stem – it should be more popular as it grows so easily.
Lavatera – Annual Mallow, – similar to the perennial but does not reach more than a metre high , many varieties branch out to form a small shrub look alike.
Scabosa , the pincushion flower – pink or light blue – not so attractive but easy, and different.
Lathyrus – Sweet Pea – the classic fragrant climber to win contests at any local show!
The seeds of all the above varieties are readily available. Even though they are all hardy annuals, as we can’t predict the weather of the coming winter it is wise to give the seedlings some protection. Fleece laid over the rows of seeds is a good insulator, and it will also make your allotment look a lot more professional (and commercial) !
We also need to begin thinking of early vegetables.
There is a particular type of onion set which is specially cultivated for autumn sowing . These are known as Japanese onion sets. I had difficulty obtaining them locally this year, but I found a few bags in Wilko’s , otherwise you can always buy them from the seed catalogues, but even the catalogues that send seeds for next to nothing when it comes to these larger items they tend to charge quite a weighty charge for packing and postage.
These are also becoming more difficult to source out locally, but they are available in the catalogues, [text books advise, never to use supermarket garlic as seed, as they are usually from a Mediterranean country and will not grow in our climate even during the summer]. Choose between soft or hard neck varieties, the latter being a better choice for northern counties even though they do not have the same keeping qualities.
Now lets go for a few vegetable seeds:
It is getting late, but as the weather has been very warm recently I think it is still worth trying, just make sure it is a spring cabbage variety like ‘Spring hero’.
Peas and Beans:
These can be sown right through October (and November).
With peas, choose a first early variety that can tolerate cold temperatures, like Feltham First, [protect seed and seedlings from mice!].
For beans it is only the broad bean that can be grown over winter, don’t bother with any other types as they are very susceptible to frost. Even all broad beans are not suitable for over wintering so make sure the packet says that it is suitable for autumn sowing.
This is a trial that I am going to do. The other year I found many self seeded parsnip growing from the flowers of the earlier year – which proves to me that the seeds are content to live in the soil over winter. So, besides sowing in early spring as is the normal procedure, I am going to try sowing a row now, I will mark out the row as I don’t expect them to come up in autumn (they are very slow to germinate at the best of times), and l look forward to see them peeping through the soil in February! Anyway they write in the text books not to keep parsnip seeds from one year to the next so I will plant them out instead!
I would love to hear from you next spring , if you also tried it out and it worked!
Vegetable seeds should also be given some form of protection, to give you a greater chance of success.
Have an enjoyable gardening week!