5 Best veg to sow in autumn

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Looking for some autumnal vegetable patch inspiration? These are our favourites for growing in the leafy autumn months, before the winter frost creeps in

In the veg patch, September and October are mostly months for harvesting and tidying. And while the veg-picking part is usually one of the most enjoyable aspects of the gardening year, clearing away what remains is less fun and, we find, is often neglected until spring. 

But there’s another task that can be carried out, making space-clearing imperative: at this time of year there are plenty of veg seeds that can be sown to slowly grow over winter and fill the patch with abundant harvests the following spring. Here is our guide to five of them… 

 

Broad beans 

If you want to get an early crop of broad beans then find yourself a frost-hardy, autumn sowing variety and get busy burying them. They can be sown directly into the ground or in trays indoors, planted to a depth of around 5cm.  

They’ll germinate after a few weeks but won’t show much growth over winter, however, when the spring sunshine appears, they’ll develop quickly, keeping well ahead of any varieties sown after Christmas.  

If growing outside in a cold part of the country then it’s worth covering them with a layer of fleece to give them extra protection. 

 

Peas 

As with broad beans there are also a few varieties of peas that can be sown in autumn and have the hardiness to survive winter for an early crop the following year.  

Peas are a prized food source for rodents so your best bet is to start them off in a safe place in pots until they’ve germinated and have established a few sets of leaves. If you’re brave enough to sow them directly then put up your best anti-mice barriers (secure netting is best) and hope for the best. 

 If frosts are in the air then it’s worth covering with fleece to help keep them in tip top condition.  

 

Onion and shallot sets 

There are few more therapeutic gardening tasks than gently pushing onion sets (baby onions that swell as they grow) into holes—it’s the kind of simple, repetitive task that takes as long as you want it to, soaking up the last rays of autumn sunshine in the process.  

In terms of growing, there’s not a huge advantage to autumn planting—your onions might be ready to harvest a touch earlier—but we find it a good chore to get out of the way before the spring rush, and use them as boundary markers for otherwise bare plots.  

Push them into holes so just the tips poke out and they’ll largely look after themselves until the ground needs weeding. 

The more space you afford them, the bigger they’ll grow, so keep them at least a plump onion’s width apart in rows, or fill random spaces with clumps of three of four sets.  

 

Garlic 

Autumn planted garlic can be popped into holes roughly 4cm deep, pointy end facing upwards, with each clove given around 10cm space to grow. There are two types of garlic to choose from—hardneck and softneck—and it’s the former you should get a head start on.  

You can plant them through to January, but as they need a frost to split the bulb into cloves, the earlier you get them started, the more time you’re allowing for this to happen. Before your garlic is ready to harvest the hardneck varieties will also produce a firm, curly stem which needs to be removed—it’s edible, making it a great garlicky bonus for home growers. 

 

Cauliflower 

We find cauliflowers a rather fussy plant to grow so choosing autumn sowing varieties means you have a bit more time to give them the attention they need.  

Sow directly or in trays, planting out when they have six leaves—try not to leave it any later as they’re not a fan of their roots being disturbed so need maximum time to settle in. Cauliflower success depends on using good nutrient-rich soil, and the seedlings need to be planted deeply and firmed in, allowing the roots to suck up maximum water and goodness. 

Water regularly but don’t let them get too soggy. And give them plenty of space to develop good sized heads—at least 30cm apart should do the trick. 

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