As the first autumn catalogues arrive through the letterbox, it‘s time to order seeds for autumn and winter vegetables. Most gardeners close down the green house in winter, using it only to protect tender plants in a frost free environment. Don‘t limit your options, it‘s a great opportunity to grow salads in cool, frost free conditions, the added protection encourages rapid tender growth and it‘s possible to continue cropping tasty salads right through winter.
Lettuce like ‘Four Seasons‘ and ‘Tom Thumb‘, any oriental vegetables, including ‘Pak Choi‘ and ‘Mizuna‘ greens, ‘Lamb‘s Lettuce and spinach like ‘Veneto‘ are ideal for late summer sowing in pots or the greenhouse border and will be ready for harvesting from late September onwards. It‘s also time to plant new potatoes for Christmas! Late season, second crop potatoes, stored in temperature controlled conditions to keep them dormant are sent out from late July to early August! In warmer areas, plant them outdoors immediately, protecting the foliage with horticultural fleece if frosts are forecast; they will be ready to harvest from late October. In cooler parts of the country where frosts are more common grow them in pots. Stand two or three tubers on a 5in layer of multipurpose compost in a flower pot, at least 12″ wide, then cover with a further 4-6″ of compost and water well.
When the shoots are 6″ high almost cover them with another layer of compost, continuing the same process as the stems grow until the shoots are within 2-3″ of the top of the container. Move them into the greenhouse before the first frosts; it is a good idea to plant several pots, leaving some to be harvested for your Christmas dinner. Last month I mentioned the fabulous Agapanthus ‘Back in Black‘, which is now available in limited numbers – another good reason to rush!
Hampton Court Flower Show lived up to expectations and despite firm promises to my wife not to buy more plants, I inevitably succumbed! Here‘s a couple more ‘star‘ plants for your list. I‘ve been searching for Gladiolus papilo ‘Ruby‘ for several months as it has been in short supply; as you can see, the beautiful burgundy blooms are simply stunning. It needs an open sunny site on moist free draining soil and is hardy and vigorous; next year I‘m looking forward to more, more, more! I was given Passiflora x violacea ‘Victoria‘ too, it is perfect in a pot, and adds a touch of ‘exotica‘ to the patio. Planted in an equal mix of John Innes no 2 and multipurpose compost with 20% added horticultural grit, and trained up a tripod of canes, it is pruned simply to keep it under control, watered freely and fed with tomato fertiliser once a month. It will happily over-winter with reduced watering and despite its beauty is not too proud to spend winter protected under glass, accompanied by a few lettuces.
Happy Gardening! Matt.