October Fruit and Veg Sowing in the UK is Changing. Traditional Sowing & Cropping Recommendations Have Changed Due to Climate Change.
What to Sow In October – As the climate warms, crops that previously couldn’t be grown here before now can. Plus we are seeing a number of crops becoming common that were not traditional fare in the UK. For example crops such as chillis were virtually unknown in the UK before the 70s and even where a few were imported very few people attempted to grow them. Now they are very common.
We are also seeing crops such as callaloo and sweet potatoes being grown here. Even crops such as tea are grown commercially in the UK.
In many cases, the new crops are warm climate crops so not sown in October (at least not unless you are a commercial grower). But there are plenty of things we can sow, both indoors and outdoors. And many crops are surprisingly hardy. That’s why they’ve been grown here for years.
Bear in mind my garden is in the south of Devon, just a mile from the sea. Most of what I recommend on these pages are suitable throughout the UK. But take your local growing conditions into account when deciding what to grow. And don’t forget you can grow them on windowsills and eat them as baby plants.
The limiting factor to winter growth was always considered to be temperature, but as the climate warms I’d say this has changed to light being the limiting factor.
Light levels in greenhouses and tunnels can be improved by cleaning them with a soft brush or pressure water. Don’t overdo the pressure washer if you use polycarbonate panels …. Or it will punch them out of the frame.
Another consideration is how the crop is to be harvested. Many veg crops can be grown as Microgreens or baby plants . Don’t stick with convention, experiment.
Here’s What To Sow In October In The UK
Cauliflowers are quite hardy, it takes an extremely severe frost to kill them. Varieties such us All Year Around are worth sowing now. But look also at the seed catalogues to see what is available and will suit your local climate.
Broad beans are very hardy and survive even the coldest winters. But getting them in early means an earlier crop and a better chance of beating the dreaded Black Army (aphid) that will invariably infest the growing tops in the spring.
Peas can be sown now to harvest as pea shoots for salads OR to overwinter outside for an early crop of pods. I’m also growing some in containers to keep in the greenhouse until spring when I hope to harvest mangetout pods.
Varieties worth considering include Mangetout, Alderman, Meteor, and Kelvedon Wonder.
I refer you again to my September advice on seeds to sow.
Lambs Lettuce or Corn Salad (so called because it used to be found as a weed in cornfields) is relatively slow-growing so you need a fair size plot to get many meals, But it’s still worth growing as it is very frost hardy and crops when barely anything else will. Growing it under cloches or in a tunnel will speed it up a bit.
From traditional radish to the more fancy types I’ll be sowing radish in containers in my greenhouse .
Basil is never going to be a meal, but it’s a great accompaniment to so many dishes. I sow basil every month so I have a plentiful supply on the kitchen window sill. Great for pesto on pizzas, in salads .. or just to nibble on its own!
It’ll grow slowly and it’s too late for Christmas unless harvested as a micro herb. But a great traditional plant to tuck into a corner somewhere .. or sat in a pot in the kitchen.
And don’t forget there are different sorts of parsley. Flat leaf has the most flavour in my opinion.
Another plant to add to salads. And a must if you cook a curry. Keep it warm and it’ll potentially grow all winter
The books all say sow in March or it will bolt. But if you sow it now and keep it growing there’s a good chance of harvesting young shoots and leaves before it bolts. And with luck, it’ll not bolt anyway.
One of the alliums that can be grown on a window. If you’ve a large clump outdoors try digging some up and putting it in a pot or container this month. Give it a liquid feed as you pot it up and keep it as frost-free as you can and it’ll shoot much earlier than it otherwise would. The result can be fresh chives in late winter.
I tend to sow White Lisbon this time of year .. and all the rest of the year. But there are winter varieties if you search for them.
I mention Komatsuna later but the word mustard covers a multitude of plants, some which are ideally sown in October. For example, Mustard Greens Southern Giant can be sown every month of the year (great eaten raw or lightly steamed). Mustard Golden Streaks is another mustard that can be sown in all 12 months of the year.
Ideally, grow it as a microgreen at this time of year. In 4-6 weeks you can germinate and grow a crop to add to salads.
For the more adventurous, or if you have space to fill, Try sowing it in modules in a greenhouse or tunnel for planting out when the weather is good enough over winter. Once the days start getting longer they will start to grow and give you a spring crop.
One of my favourites for traditional meat and two veg meals or in a stir fry. In our house, even the stem gets eaten (peel and Julienne it before stir-frying or lightly steaming).
But bear in mind that calabrese isn’t as hardy as some brassicas so you need to carefully select the right variety. The books say wait until March before sowing. But if you live in a decent microclimate and are prepared to take a risk its possible to get a crop maturing over winter to harvest in the spring.
I frequently forget to add watercress to my sowing guides, so few people grow it as they think it needs running water. It’s one of the simplest plants to grow that I know of. It germinates easily, grows rapidly and is ready for harvest in no time. It also survives cold weather and loves colder weather at this time of year.
Another Crop that is benefiting from warmer weather. Normally we’d have been saying it should be sown in late summer. But early October is now a possibility in warmer places.
Garlic and onion sets
OK, so not seeds and perhaps technically outside the scope of the page title. But I’m planting sets right now and felt I should include them here.
There are a wide range of both garlic and onion sets that can go in during October. The onion I’m currently putting in is a red onion called Electric.
AKA claytonia or miner’s lettuce are a very hardy winter salad crop It produces small, mild tasting but succulent leaves. Ideal for growing in an unheated greenhouse or polytunnel.
Empty land is rarely seen in nature and so it should be in the garden. So if you have outside land that’s not growing anything at all, consider a green manure crop. Red clover is a good choice if you want to add nitrogen to the soil (great if you aim at growing leaf crops afterwards).
Just sprinkle the seed at the rate specified on the packet and lightly rake in .. or even scuff it in with your boots. Let it grow for a few months and then kill it by covering with a sheet of weed suppressant, cardboard or whatever. Without light it’ll die and decompose back into the soil. Uncover and then continue as you’d planned with seed or plants.
Other potential green manures are possible and include mustard and other brassica crops.
More …What To Sow In October in The UK; Including Oriental Crops!
Komatsuna – Mustard Spinach
Peppery when young and even stronger as it matures. Tasty and worth growing in my opinion.
I’m growing this in containers in my greenhouse. Another brassica to be used in salads or stir-fries.
Another oriental green for stir-fries and salads that can be grown in containers in the greenhouse or tunnel.
I’ve ordered a Crunchy Colour Mix from the seed merchant, Deep purple Pak choi look great in salads
Alongside my Pak choi, I’m sowing a Chinese cabbage variety called Hilton. It’s meant for summer sowing but I’m experimenting with various Chinese cabbage varieties in containers in my greenhouse this winter. Those sown in September have romped away so I’m hoping my October sowings do as well.
What To Sow In October … More Traditional Crops
Another crop I’m sowing at the “wrong” time of year. The aim is to sow in containers and harvest as soon as they are finger size .. though I might leave some to get bigger. The dangerous they will bolt. But I should get a harvest before they can do that as they usually make a bit of a root before bolting.
Most rhubarb is grown from crowns and so relatively expensive. But the seed is cheap. the normal advice is sow in the spring and then get a crop the following year. I’m sowing in early October and aim to plant out small plants next spring. If they attempt to bolt its easy enough to pinch out the shoots. But believe that with milder winters seed started under glass or in a cold frame will grow perfectly well. I’ve bought two packs of a variety called Victoria and will sow more in the spring just to be sure .. but only if I really need to.
This is perhaps the strangest crop I’m sowing this month. It been grown in England for beer for centuries. Especially in counties such as Kent and Worcestershire (I recall the hop gardens near my house when I lived in Ledbury).
As I’m sure you’ll understand hops are protohemicryptophytes. Well after a few pints you might admit to understanding this!
Most hops are grown as clones but seed propagation is possible and seeds can be bought for sowing in October and November or the spring. My understanding is that the seeds enjoy a bit of cold stratification, so I’d sow them in pots and leave in a cold frame until they germinate.
And if you’re not into making beer, then try eating the fresh shoots in spring. I’m told they are delicious.
Well, that’s my What To Sow In October list. What would you add to it?
Theres a post on what to grow in winter that might also interest you. Check it our here.
Please add your What To Sow In October comments below
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