Some of you have been in touch recently to ask ‘can you start growing now?’ And if so, what can you grow? The answer to the first question is YES. The answer to the second is LOTS. However, you do need to select the right crops.
In the UK – and much of the Northern Hemisphere – warmer temperatures (in a normal year!) make this a good time of year to start if you are a beginner. Seed germinates more easily and seedlings grow quicker – giving you speedier rewards with less hassle, set backs and effort. (But, of course, it’s only normal that not everything will work – so it’s best to approach with an open and enquiring mind!)
Here’s a selection of crops that you can sow now:-
Most of these crops are easy to grow. A good choice if you are growing for the first time.
- Asian greens – this is one of the best times of year to show mizuna, mibuna, pak choi, red giant, green in the snow, Chinese cabbage, choy sum, Chinese broccoli and other Asian greens. Fast growing and tasty, these leaves make fantastic container crops. All can be eaten in salads or lightly cooked in a stir fry. The flowers are edible, too!
- Kale – a versatile crop – sow now and eat the small leaves in salads in August and September and / or leave some of the plants to mature into hardier specimens to survive the winter. The variety, cavelo nero, looks particularly beautiful and stately in containers.
- Rainbow or Bright lights chard – one of the prettiest and most cheerful leafy crops you can grow in a container. Sow now and harvest the leaves from late summer into winter and spring.
- Landcress – a tasty salad leaf, a bit like water cress, that is also hardy and will survive through the winter, growing well again in spring.
- Summer purslane - an unusual succulent salad crop, with pretty round leaves. Tiny seeds! (I’d avoid this one if you are new to growing)
- Pea and bean shoots - super fast and easy to grow.
Coriander, parsley, chervil, dill and lovage can all be sown now – and basil if you’re quick! If you have a friend with a herb garden, now is also a good time of year to ask them if you can take some cuttings from herbs like mint, thyme, rosemary, sage, lemon verbena and tarragon. Of course, you can also buy these herbs from a nursery now, too.
Carrots, beetroot, turnips, spring onions and radish can all be sown now. A few spring onions in containers are always a good idea – their smell can confuse and deter pests! (Although I always grow a few, I’m not such a big fan of root veg in containers. Simply because when you harvest it you have to pull out the whole plant – whereas leafy crops and fruiting crops can usually be harvested over several weeks or months).
Fennel – now is the best time of year to sow fennel. I love fennel in containers – the fronds contrast well with other leaves, and the taste of home grown fennel has a sparkle that is missing from shop bought.
And if you want to take a punt…..
A little more risky but – if you live in the South of the UK or somewhere warmer – here are some crops you can probably get a yield from by the end of the year (as long as we have a reasonable summer!). You’ll need to sow them in the next week or so – and try to choose a fast maturing variety if you can.
- Runner beans
- French beans
And don’t forget about holiday watering!
Before rushing out to sow your crops, pause for a moment to consider any summer holiday plans. Who will water your plants? Maybe you could swap watering duties with a neighbour? Or rig up a cunning self watering system?
An alternative way round the holiday problem is to grow fast growing crops that will be ready before you go on holiday! Pea and bean shoots, for example, will be ready in two or three weeks at this time of year and radishes in three or four.