Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

Rik’s note

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Well into autumn now but there’s still lots of sowing and growing that can be done at this time. I decided to grow next year’s onion crop from autumn sown seed rather than spring planted sets, (planting sets is cheating really isn’t it? The job’s been half done by someone else!), and these have been sown in August.

The seedlings are already well under way. It takes a bit of extra tender loving care, but excellent results can be achieved by growing onions this way. Also it’s a lot cheaper, and a wider range of cultivars are available as seed. Alternatively seeds can be sown in heat early in the cropping year, (January – February), to give the new seedlings time to attain a creditable size before harvest.

Broad beans can be sown now also, perhaps delayed until early October. You can sow them directly into a well prepared bed, or raise them in 3 inch (9cm) pots for planting out later. Autumn sown broad beans often fare better than their spring sown counterparts, though they will struggle in the extreme cold we’ve experienced in some recent winters. Be sure to select a cultivar suited to overwintering, such as Aquadulce or The Sutton Dwarf.

Peas also lend themselves to sowing in autumn, though again the correct types must be chosen. Any round seeded variety such as Meteor or Feltham First are good choices. Wrinkle-seeded types are generally good only for spring and summer sowings. Both peas and beans must be protected from birds and rodents, both of which can cause havoc with the newly sown seeds or young plants. Spring cabbages which we have sown in August can be transplanted to their cropping positions now, though we will harden them off outside for a while first. These should provide loose spring greens from April next year, and hearted cabbages later on.

If you’re dead keen, an early crop of cauliflower such as “Snowball” can be sown in the first half of October and overwintered to harvest in June next year.

Part two of autumn growing next week.

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