I have been rummaging around for my favourite seeds that can still be sown now, in the green house and outside, so that I can make sure spring is off to a good early start in the vegetable patch next year. Broad beans and hardy peas are the obvious ones, and both real favourites of mine when picked young and fresh in early summer to eat raw or throw into the pot, and they need to be sown now if they are to have a chance to start into growth before the really cold weather sets in. After that point they will mainly sit and wait, though will put on some root growth, and be ready to start into full growth come spring. Sowing now makes for earlier crops and helps to bring an end to the ‘hungry gap’ of early spring.
Now that I have given up my allotment all of my vegetable gardening takes place in my raised beds at the end of the garden, and in the greenhouse nestled alongside them. On the allotment autumn sown crops would get battered by the wind and rain all winter long, and direct sown broad beans were a bit hit and miss. In a mild year they were brilliant, and would come through to provide heaps of beans. But most years some would get blown over and trail in the mud, while others would rot in the wet clay soil. And so I got into the habit of always sowing a second batch at home in the greenhouse, so that I always had some spares to slip into the gaps wrought by winter weather.
But now I don’t have that problem. The garden veg beds are much more sheltered, the soil is imported top soil and so is well drained. And so there is a good chance that I could just make my winter sowings direct outside and get away with it. But seeing as this is our first winter on these beds I don’t yet quite know what problems I may have. There could be a whole host of new ones that I am still to stumble across. Plus I’m in the habit now and so I am sowing broad beans – ‘Super Aquadulce’, for hardiness – direct into the soil, but then also sowing them again just the other side of the glass, into some little pots, as a guarantee of little sweet beans in spring.
I’m doing the same with hardy pea ‘Meteor’ – some straight into the soil and some into deep pots of soil in the greenhouse. This is an experiment with gentler conditions, as I never managed to overwinter peas outside at the plot. In fact I barely managed to grow them at all, so voraciously hungry were the pigeons and mice that apparently scoured the plots for pea shoots trying to make a start in life. This year in the beds has seen my most impressive pea results ever, and so I am going to push my luck and try for some winter ones. I’m planting them direct into the soil next to an obelisk to climb up, but then covering the first foot with chicken wire to keep out hungry pigeons after the young shoots. Here a back up crop in the greenhouse is even more important as mice love to steal and eat the seeds so much, and no chicken wire is going to keep them out. Lucky both broad bean and pea packets come full of plenty of seed, as I’m sowing plenty in order to get myself a really decent early summer crop.