Autumn flowers and winter crops

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KEEPING flowers going into early autumn is a doddle, but what about your vegetable beds?

It’s tempting to pick crops and leave plots until next year, but it’s not too late to sow crops for autumn, winter or spring, when veg are at their most expensive.

After terrible weather, nature often makes up for lost time, so make use of any Indian summer we get.

Check seed packets, but it’s worthwhile sowing carrots, salad crops, broccoli, calabrese, cabbage, chard and winter spring onions. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

It’s a waste of resources leaving empty beds which will be colonised by weeds or used as toilets by cats.

I’m a great believer in using every little space.

I have five 1x2m raised beds for veg. One is full of runner beans and courgettes, with gaps newly seeded with red lettuce (Colour Shades Mixed), as it doesn’t bolt in any heat.

The second has baby leeks, along with purple calabrese which replaced the recently-picked garlic.

The third is home to strawberries and a maturing crop of Hercules onions. I’ll replace these with a catch crop of winter salad leaves.

Number four also has onions, plus newly-sown cabbage Pyramid.

The last one was home to Shenshyu onions until a couple of weeks ago. Now I’ve sown the whole bed with rocket! It’s the shadiest bed, so hopefully it won’t bolt. I did the same last September, which gave me good pickings during winter.

If you have used compost left from potato bags, this is ideal to freshen up raised beds before reseeding.

If you really can’t be bothered, seed empty soil with a green manure mix.

You cut the plants down in winter, then dig them in.

l Don’t miss next week’s column for a chance to win £50 T&M vouchers.

PLANTS OF THE WEEK

HAVEN’T the sweet peas been excellent this year?

They’ve really excelled with all the moisture and fill the garden with their powerful fragrance.

Once again, Fragrantissima has lived up to its billing.

THIS mini-sunflower I’m trialling for Thompson and Morgan has to be the floral star of the show this summer.

My usual favourite, Bees Knees, was a disaster, decimated by slugs and snails, leaving only 6ft stems and the odd leaf rib.

These ones, dotted around a border, are only 18in high and have brushed off the pests and weather to give a gorgeous display.