If you’ve enjoyed growing (and eating) homegrown vegetables this year it can be frustrating to think you need to wait until next spring to start growing your next crops. Although some ‘tender’ crops do need a lot of warmth and sunshine to flower and fruit (such as tomatoes, French beans and squashes) there are some types that you can start growing in the autumn months. When I’m helping new growers to plan ahead, I encourage them to put together a twelve-month planner to note down when to sow seeds inside and/or outside. This will help to use space better and make sure you are sowing seeds when they’ve got the best chance of thriving.
What Vegetables To Grow During Autumn & Winter Months?
What vegetables can you grow during Autumn?
There are some vegetable seeds that you can sow in the autumn months, and they will grow and provide a crop you can harvest and eat over the winter. Ideal for the impatient (and/or hungry) gardener, these include
- Pak choi
What vegetables can you grow during Winter?
When choosing your seeds look out for varieties that mention cold hardiness such as Lettuce ‘Artic King’ and Lettuce ‘Vailan’ (Winter Gem) or Kale ‘Winterbor’ F1. You can sow these outside in the autumn or use an indoor or undercover growing area and grow in pots or troughs. By spacing out your seed sowing you can grow these green leafy crops and pick fresh leaves for salads and stir fries all year round.
There is another group of vegetable seeds that can be sown in the winter to give them a head start so they will flower and/or produce a crop earlier the following year. These include
- Podded Peas
- Broad Beans
When growing these in the autumn choose those that are winter hardy such as Pea ‘Meteor,’ Carrot ‘Chantenay 2 Red Cored’, Salad Onion ‘Salad/Bunching’ or ‘White Lisbon’. You can sow all Broad Beans in the autumn, but ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is the most popular variety for overwintering. You can also start off onion seeds inside from December onwards choosing varieties such as ‘Toughball,’ ‘Alisa Craig’ and ‘Red Baron’. Bear in mind you can’t harvest these crops in the winter, but they will get well established and so provide an earlier crop the following year.
When preparing to sow seeds outdoors later in the year make sure that you prepare your soil or containers properly by removing any weeds and adding a suitable fertiliser to feed your crops. I always add chicken manure pellets a week or two before I sow my seeds and rake over the soil to make it level. If I’m using pots and containers, I add fresh compost and fertiliser and don’t just grow in the same compost that has already produced a summer crop.
How to protect your vegetables from the frost?
Hardy varieties can survive frosts and snow outside and will keep growing through the winter. However, in a very windy or cold spot you may want to protect your crops with a covering. You can try horticultural fleece; a light, fine material you can drape over your crops on particularly cold, windy days. Just make sure it is securely held down to stop it blowing away! This fleece will let through the sunlight and rain. Alternatively you could use rigid, see-trough covers/cloches to protect crops in very cold conditions. However, these will also stop the rain reaching the soil, so remember to keep the crops watered if you cover them with an impermeable cover. Never cover your crops with anything that stops the light getting through as this will weaken or kill them, as they rely on sunlight to live.
If you live in a ‘frost pocket’ like me, you’ll find it difficult to grow winter crops outside. My garden is at the bottom of narrow valley and the sun only reaches it for 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon during the winter. So in the winter I use pots in my unheated greenhouse and windowsills to grow leafy crops that don’t mind the shady conditions, such as spinach, Pak choi and lettuce. I treat these as ‘cut and come again’ crops; harvesting a few leaves at the time from each plant and letting them continue to grow. Whatever your conditions or growing space there are always some vegetables you can grow over winter.
Want to know what to sow this month?
view our month-by-month breakdown of the
best times to sow your vegetable and herb seeds
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