Posts Tagged ‘Late summer and autumn sowing’

Growing Autumn Salad Leaves from Sowing to Harvest

September 21st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Early autumn, with its often hazy mornings and cooling temperatures, signals change is in the air. Many of summer’s staples are winding down and growth all over the garden is noticeably slower.

But if you think it is time to hang up the fork for winter, well think again – because now’s the moment Oriental leaves such as bok choy, mustards and mizuna really come into their own.

Give it a try! Read on or watch the video to discover how to grow them.

Types of Oriental Leaves

Oriental leaves offer a fascinating range of leaf shapes, textures and flavours. Enjoy smooth and creamy leaves from rosette-forming tatsoi or bok choy (also known as pak choi), the crunch of Chinese cabbage or the narrow or deeply serrated leaves of mibuna and mizuna. And then there’s the intriguing range of spicy mustards: frilly, spoon-shaped, red-veined, red-leaved – even golden!

Where to Grow Oriental Leaves

Cool-season Oriental leaves are best sown in the last weeks of summer to grow on into autumn and beyond, making them ideal for following on from earlier crops.

Sow direct into prepared ground, or start them off in module trays to plant out a few weeks later. Most are pretty hardy and will continue to give some leaves for cutting throughout winter, especially if provided some protection in the form of a greenhouse or hoop house.

Don’t forget other winter-hardy salads too, including mache or corn salad, and miner’s lettuce or winter purslane.

Oriental leaves grow well in pots, troughs and trays too, either as individual plants or sown as a mixture of different leaves and/or varieties, to give a tasty explosion of flavours in one handy container.


When to Sow Oriental Leaves

Oriental leaves are brassicas that often bolt, or flower, as days lengthen earlier on in the season. Sowing them from the second half of summer avoids this problem and there are fewer pests, such as flea beetle, about too.

Sowings earlier in the year may be made – just be prepared to pick the leaves very often to slow bolting, when the plants push up flower stems and leaf production ceases. Plants grown in part-shaded locations are often slower to bolt too, while sowing every few weeks should ensure a steady supply of usable leaves at this tricky time of year.

How to Sow Oriental Leaves

Prepare the ground for sowing or planting by sprinkling over a general-purpose organic fertiliser, then raking it in to leave a fine, crumbly surface.

To sow, mark out drills about 1/2 inch (1cm) deep. Space rows 6 to 10 inches (15-25cm) apart. Sow seeds thinly along the drills then cover back over. Water well if it’s dry. Once germinated, thin the seedlings in stages to their final spacings. For most plants that’s 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) apart, depending on what you’re growing.

Sowing into module trays before planting out has some advantages. You can start plants off while the final growing area is still occupied by another crop, and tender seedlings are at less risk of slug damage. Fill trays with multi-purpose potting soil, firm it down with your fingertips then sow one or two seeds into each cell. Cover with more potting soil, water and place the tray somewhere bright to germinate. The seedlings are ready to plant out about a month later.

Seed mixes, sown into their final containers for cut-and-come-again picking, should be scattered evenly onto potting soil before covering with more of the same. The seedlings shouldn’t need thinning.


Planting Out

Plant module-raised seedlings at their final spacings. Carefully remove plants from their plugs then lay them onto prepared ground. Use a dibber or similar to make the holes, then position and firm the plants into place. If it’s dry, be sure to thoroughly water after planting.

Caring for Oriental Leaves

Weed between plants to keep them free of competition – particularly important during the colder, darker months of the year. Slugs can be a nuisance, readily rasping holes into tender leaves. Pick them off at dusk or set up slug traps filled with beer and remove the slugs you trap.

Protect plants grown earlier in the year from flea beetle by enclosing newly sown beds with row covers or insect mesh. You can hamper overwintering flea beetles by forking over the soil surface and clearing leaf litter from surrounding areas in early winter. Netting or mesh will also keep pigeons from pecking plants to pieces.

In cooler regions, setting up a hoop house or cloche will improve growth rates as winter approaches, while a greenhouse almost guarantees harvests in all but the very coldest weeks of the year.

Harvesting Oriental Leaves

Harvest plants like Chinese cabbage and bok choy whole by cutting through base of the plant. Loose, open plants such as mizuna should be harvested little and often, by taking a few leaves at a time from each plant. Pinch leaves off between finger and thumb or use a pair of scissors. After each cutting there should still be enough leaves left for the plant to recover.

Overwintered plants will grow strongly when warmth returns in spring, giving plentiful harvests before eventually bolting.

If you have any experience growing these loveable leaves, then comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Gertrude Jekyll on annuals to sow soon

August 1st, 2014 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Eschscholtzia (California poppy) 'Appleblossom Pink'Last time I enthused about sowing seed of nigella (love-in-a-mist) in late summer and autumn, but there are plenty of other annuals that can be treated in the same way. In fact I suddenly remembered there’s a list of annuals and biennials for autumn sowing in Gertrude Jekyll’s 1916 book Annuals and Biennials.

Her experience has led her to include some plants that would not immediately come to mind for this approach and some that are now very rarely seen at all. Here’s what a few of those Gertrude Jekyll recommended that are still easily available (with her full list at the end).

Alyssum Don’t bother with the old ‘Carpet of Snow’ (sometimes the plants are all different sizes); try ‘Snow Crystals’ or the excellent five-colour ‘Golf Bright Mixed’.

Clarkia Sow outside, or it can be grown in pots in an unheated greenhouse to flower in March and April. ‘Choice Double Mixed’ is the one to grow.

Cornflower I’ll be looking at cornflowers in detail soon, ‘Blue Ball’ is a really vivid blue.

Erysimum Biennials that can only be sown in summer, I discussed ‘Sugar Rush’ here a few weeks ago.

Eschscholzia “No annual is better for a warm bank or any place with full sunny exposure,” says Jekyll. Try ‘Appleblossom Pink’ (above, click to enlarge).

Godetia The best plants for cut flower come from an August sowing, try ‘Azalea Flowered Mixed’.

Gypsophila Best in soil with good drainage, try ‘Monarch White’.

Iberis Easy and dependable, ‘Fairy Mixed’ includes dark and pastel shades.

Larkspur I’ll be looking in detail at larkspur next time.Linaria 'Fairy Bouquet'

Lavatera The prettily veined ‘Silver Cup’ is my favourite.

Limnanthes The poached egg flower is one that can take damp soil.

Linaria ‘Fairy Bouquet’ contains an amazing range of colours.

Nemophila I discussed the delightful nemophila here recently.

Papaver Multicoloured ‘Dawn Chorus’ double poppies are far better from an autumn sowing than when sown in spring.

Phacelia Now mainly grown for green manure, Phacelia tanacetifolia is also a colourful bee plant.

Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ has close-to-black flowers.

Sweet Pea I’ll be looking at sweet peas as the autumn sowing season approaches.

Sweet Sultan ‘Sweet Sultan Mixed’ needs a long growing season so autumn sowing is a big advantage.

Reprints of Annuals and Biennials by Gertrude Jekyll are available on

Here’s the full list of annuals and biennials that she recommends for autumn sowing: Alyssum, Asperula, Bartonia, Cacalia, Clarkia, Collinsia, Cornflower, Crepis, Delphinium, Erysimum, Eschscholzia, Gilia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Iberis, Kaulfussia, Larkspur, Lavatera, Leptosiphon, Limnanthes, Linaria, Nemophila, Nigella, Omphalodes, Papaver, Phacelia, Platystemon, Saponaria, Scabiosa, Silene, Sweet Pea, Sweet Sultan.