Can you sow veg seeds in summer? If you choose carefully…
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You may think you’ve missed the boat with seed-sowing for a veg crop this year, as so many are started off in spring.
But think again. Now, in mid-summer, as home-grown tomatoes begin to ripen and runner beans start to climb their poles, there are still crops you can sow now to give you a harvest later in the year.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises that gardeners can sow corn salad, land cress and oriental salad leaves such as komatsuna, mibuna, mizuna, mustard and rocket in late summer to provide cut-and-come-again leaves through the autumn – and winter if covered with a cloche, cold frame or fleece.
‘No-dig’ gardening expert and YouTuber Charles Dowding, author of 10 books and an annual calendar of sowing dates, offers some suggestions for quick-growing, healthy veg to sow now for eating later in the year – and even over the cold winter months…
Excellent when sown in early August, spinach can crop for nine months if you harvest the outside larger leaves as it grows, Dowding explains. It is winter-hardy and leaves actually sweeten in the cold. ‘Medania’ and ‘Red Cardinal’ are two varieties to look out for. Eat raw in salads or sautéed with butter.
Winter cultivars can be sown in August and September, but will need protection from October onwards unless you live in a mild area, the RHS adds. Cover the plants with cloches or protect the crown with straw or similar material, and cover with fleece.
These are good to sow in early August, Dowding advises. Plant rocket, mustards and mizuna, plus the tasty pak choi and more unusual tatsoi. Serve mixed leaves for a salad with zing and crunch.
The RHS advises gardeners to sow salad plants direct into the ground in summer in shallow drills that have been watered before sowing.
Chinese cabbage is a particularly good crop for late summer, as days are long and nights are warm, the RHS notes. It will bolt during other seasons. Sow thinly in fertile soil outdoors up until August, every three weeks for successional crops, 1cm deep in rows 38cm (15in) apart.
Want to pep up your dishes with freshly-picked herbs? Coriander and chervil, with its mild aniseed flavour, give lovely autumn leaves from sowing late in July, and may even survive winter, says Dowding.
The RHS adds that with coriander, germination is likely to take between seven and 20 days and that you’ll need to sow every three or four weeks for a constant supply of leaves. You can continue sowing up until September.
Lettuce can be sown up to early September, for growing in protected spots such as balconies or window boxes through the winter months. ‘Grenoble Red’ is a great variety for late planting, Dowding suggests.
Winter purslane, a delicious crunchy salad leaf packed with vitamin C, can be sown in early September, as can fast-growing land cress, which has a similar taste to watercress.
Peas for shoots
You may be used to the frozen variety, but peas can also be grown for their tasty plant tips. Seeds can be sown at any time of the year and are easy to grow in containers. The shoots are delicious in salads but also steamed or used in stir fries. Try ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ or heritage variety ‘Mr Brays’, says Dowding.
What about sowing seeds now for crops next year?
You can also sow winter radishes through July and August, which grow larger and more slowly than spring sowings and should be ready to harvest in October and November. Winter radishes such as mooli, the long, cylindrical white roots of Japanese winter radish, are great in stir fries.
For crops next year, you could also sow early variety carrots in July and early August to avoid carrot fly, covering with fleece in the autumn to prolong the growing season.