If you love the idea of growing your own but you’re not sure where to start, home harvesting is easier than you might think, even without a garden or allotment. Grow bags on a balcony or pots on a window sill serve just as well.
But what to grow? Here are a few ideas to get you started this autumn:
The good thing about planting greens this late in the season is that the cooler autumn temperatures help leaves stay fresher than during summer. They’re also less likely to bolt (flower and go to seed prematurely) due to the days drawing to a close sooner. As importantly, autumn-sown crops avoid being chewed up by flea beetles, summer’s notorious plant-munching pests.
- Sowing lettuce varieties in August means you’ll have fresh leaves for your salads once autumn kicks in. Lettuces generally do just as well planted direct into the land or in pots and can be harvested within 30 days, once the leaves have grown strong.
- For a good lettuce you can sow right into winter months, try Winter Marvel, famed for being cold-hardy.
- A staple in Asian cuisine, pak choi or Chinese cabbage needs planting now as it’s prone to bolting if grown before mid-summer. You can harvest cut-and-come-again leaves in as few as 30 days from sowing your pak choi seeds, while the more mature, full-sized leaves take a couple of months to be ready.
- Sow winter spinach in late August so that the plants become established and bear one light harvest of baby greens in late autumn. They will produce more harvests once days begin to get longer in late February and March.
- Kale, especially when very wavy, curly or textured, is generally hardy, perfect for autumn sowing as it withstands the winter weather best. Try Dazzling Blue Kale or Palm Kale for easy-grow varieties. You can plant them under the protection of a cloche or poly tunnel if the weather’s particularly harsh and pick a few leaves at a time all winter.
- You have until the end of September to plant rocket, a spicy addition to any salad. Late sowings in the ground or in a pot or grow bag can produce a good crop of peppery leaves in just four weeks.
Carrots and other root crops
- Although most carrot varieties will already have been sown by July, there is still time to sow fast-maturing carrots such as ‘Adelaide‘ before the frosts begin. You will need to harvest these, along with beetroots, leeks, radishes and parsnips in late autumn before winter’s freeze sets in.
- Plant your potatoes between August and September, ready for delicious home-grown Christmas new potatoes – these are also known as Second Crop Potatoes. Nothing beats a freshly dug, earthy potato and if you have limited space simply plant them in potato grow bags in a bright, frost free place – they often come complete with tubers, making the whole process very easy.
- Finally, liven up your salads with spring onions which are easy to grow in an indoor pot. Alternatively, plant them outdoors in the flower bed or a pot placed conveniently by your kitchen door. If you sow in late autumn, your crop will be ready by late spring – try winter hardy varieties like White Lisbon, Guardsman or Red Welsh.