Looking after summer sowings

Earlier in summer you will need to make sure that you keep seedlings watered in dry periods. Keep them damp and you'll generally find that June & July sowings get going really fast with the long - and hopefully warm - summer days.

Keep sowing in late summer and autumn, most of these veggies will grow outdoors quite happily outside in most of the country even as the weather turns colder. Any protection you can offer will help for later sowings as autumn comes on - mini plastic and fleece tunnels are an easy modern alternative to traditional cloches. Often just keeping cold winds off your plants is all that is needed to give you a really successful crop.

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse or polytunnel, don't let it stand empty once your summer crops are out. Think about bringing on baby plants in modules or outdoor seedbeds to transplant undercover as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers finish cropping. In a tunnel/greenhouse you can sow (and harvest) salads and greens throughout the year.
Salads and greens

Plant pictureLettuce
Keep on successional sowing summer lettuce varieties in July - August to give you a wide range of salads in Autumn.

Winter lettuce are particularly cold-hardy, selected for sowing after mid-summer, for harvest in autumn - and with a bit of protection, on into winter. Ideal if you have a polytunnel and want winter salads - or outdoors under a cloche or mini-tunnel. Try Winter Marvel which can be sown right through into November and then again from late January.

Sow our quick heading broccoli outdoors in midsummer for autumn harvest, or as long as the winter is not too severe, it can be sown in late August or September in an unheated greenhouse or polytunnel, to give you a very early crop at the start of the following year.

Broccoli raab or 'rapini'
Broccoli Raab is related to turnip - but is grown like broccoli & produces delicious sprouts like a slightly spicy flavoured sprouting broccoli.
Thinnings are also excellent in salads or stirfries. Sow mid to late summer for harvest just 40 days later - so great in late summer & autumn when ordinary broccoli isn't available.

Sow spring cabbage in late August or September, and you'll get nice fresh cabbage very early the following spring.

plant pictureOriental greens - milder greens for salads, or tasty mustard greens
There are a whole range of remarkably cold hardy oriental greens. They are ideal to keep your plot going through the depths of winter, particularly jf you don't have the space or time for traditional winter veg like brussels.

Many are good both in salads and cooked - try Pak Choi, Mizuna, Chinese Cabbage, Mibuna, Tatsoi and Mispoona, all of which can be sown from the end of June through to end September (you can keep on sowing through into the winter if you have a polytunnel or greenhouse)

Mustard greens are even more hardy than the milder greens - which means that they will keep on growing new leaves even in the worst of weather. Raw they are spicy - so although its nice to put small quantities raw in salads, they're mostly used cooked. When you cook them the heat disappears, leaving a rich, full flavour, with just a little spicy zing. They are especially useful because they grow so well in cooler weather.

Salad onions
Salad onions are MUCH easier to grow from seed than normal onions. They're really quick and useful, providing lots of greenstuff early in the spring gap when there's not much else available. Sow them after midsummer for a winter/spring crop

Kales are great for baby leaves (salads & cooked) in autumn, and then left to overwinter for delicious greens through to the following April.
You can sow kale 2 ways:
1) in autumn in a tunnel - for tender baby leaves. We particularly recommend Nero de Toscana for this use, although all the kales will do well.
2) outdoors before early August - for hardy overwintering plants. Try Red Ursa for a very good hardy variety that also makes delicious flowering shoots in spring

Chards and greens
Sow leaf beet and chard up until end July for a seemingly endless supply of greens in autumn and into next spring.

Winter spinach is excellent for use in salads as well as cooked.

Also try ‘Rapa Senza Testa’ Turnip Greens for an excellect quick growing green vegetable. Ready about 4 weeks from sowing, it makes mild green leaves that have a wonderfully buttery flavour when cooked, and are also nice and mild if used raw in salads.

Other salads
Land Cress (Barbarea verna) is great in salads but can also be eaten cooked as 'creasy greens' or as a pretty much identical substitute for watercress in soup. It is sown in autumn & grown over winter, its a great addition to winter salads!
Also try 'Bianca Riccia da Taglio'Salad Endive, which is hardier than lettuce, and has pretty pale green leaves with a good non-bitter flavour, it can be sown spring, summer or autumn.

Root and stem vegetables

plant pictureBeetroot
Sow beetroot in June for full sized roots to store. A later sowing in July will be ideal for pulling as tender baby beets in autumn; you can make a further sowing in late August or early September if you are lucky enough to have a polytunnel.
(Store your main crop of beetroot for winter use by pulling in autumn, twisting off the leaves, and packing into dry sawdust. Make sure that the roots don't touch, and they should store through until well into the new year.)

Carry on sowing carrots in July and early August to pull as tender carrots in autumn. We recommend 'Giant Red' Dark Orange Carrot as the best for summer sowing. The vigour and flavour of this Italian variety are terrific. The great advantage of late summer sowings is that they are often less affected by carrot fly as the fly is less active in these months.

Plant pictureTurnips
Sow turnips from mid June through to end July for pulling through the autumn and into the winter for all those lovely winter stews. Or cook them as my mum does, braised in the oven and served with a roast leg of lamb - delicious!

Sow swedes from May until late June for harvest in November/December - they will also store well in a cool place until well after Christmas. Excellent as an addition to winter vegetable soups (including the traditional Welsh cawl), roasted around the joint, or mashed with loads of butter and some ground black pepper.

Not everyone realises that Fennel is best sown after midsummer as its much less likely to bolt than if its sown in spring. Sow up to the middle of August. The plants will stand up to Christmas or beyond in milder areas.

Cooking radishes
These are a fantastic root vegetable that everyone should try. They bear no resemblance to a breakfast radish, this is a large root - tennis ball sized and upwards - which you use in soups, stews and stir-fries. They are also great eaten raw grated or sliced finely into salads, with a mild zing to them. Try Black Spanish radish which is delicious in a stir fry, or used like a swede or turnip in soups and stews. We find them less fussy than either of those two vegetables, and sow them from July to Sept, for pulling all winter.
plant pictureHerbs
Successional sow Coriander until the end of July for a continual supply of fresh leaves. Parsley can also be sown up to midsummer and will stand through intot he winter with a bit of protection.
Peas and beans
Sow round seeded varieties in September and October for an extra-early crop in spring, or from January onwards. Try Hatif d'Annonay as a dwarf variety, or Serpette Guilloteau if you prefer a climbing pea.

Broad beans
Sow broad beans and the hardier field beans from October (the ideal timing will depend on where you live) for an earlier harvest the following year.