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Autumn sowing – is it worth the gamble?

Autumn sowing of hardy flowers and veg directly outside in the garden is a traditional technique that has fallen out of favour in recent years. Perhaps it’s the long wait between sowing and harvesting, or the fact that you’re pinning your hopes on the fickle British winter weather, or just the fact that you can buy ready-grown plants from garden retailers during spring without all the fuss of raising them yourself? But autumn sowing is cheap, easy and can produce earlier harvests just when you need them most. By sowing now, the soil conditions are perfect for quick germination producing sturdy seedlings that can survive the winter unscathed. This is a real advantage if you have heavy soil which is slow to warm up in spring – delaying spring sowings. Perhaps the best thing about sowing in autumn is that you can’t lose - if disaster strikes and a crop fails, you can always try again in spring. So if you have some suitable seed left over…have a flutter on the gardening lottery, by sowing now. 

What’s worth sowing now?

  • Peas and broad beans for a May harvest
  • Hardy annuals sown outdoors for early flowers
  • Half-hardy annuals in pots in a greenhouse
  • Hardy perennials for flowers in their first year
  • Sweetpeas for flowers by May

Other Tips

  • Clean and tidy borders, cut back perennials and protect any non-hardy plants.
  • Cut back fallen or leaning foliage to stop it smothering the surrounding plants.
  • Mark any bare patches using pegs and string or even a stone to remind you where the gaps are.
  • Bring in small alpine pots to protect during the winter.  If you are leaving them outside, remove any fallen leaves and stop them from being smothered.
  • Secure new climbing rose shoots by tying them loosely to the trellis, but don’t force the twigs to grow behind the trellis.
  • Cover ponds with netting to catch any falling leaves and stop them rotting at the bottom of the pond.
  • Remove any pumps and filters from the pond incase of bad weather.
  • Time to adjust the cutting height on the lawn mower to reduce the amount it takes off.

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