03 November 2020 By Julia Parker
With warm days a distant memory and shorter daylight hours ahead, there is still a surprising amount of jobs to be getting on with inside the greenhouse and out.
If you still have tomatoes, chillies, peppers and other annual crops hanging around, it’s probably best to pull them up now, leave the fruits to ripen in a sunny spot and compost the spent plants. Don’t throw away the compost from your grow bags, fill pots and containers and use it to grow some winter salad leaves or microgreens.
Winter Sowing Jobs
Broad Beans and Sweet Peas are hardy annuals and will benefit from being sown in November in the greenhouse. The advantages of autumn sowing are early strong Sweet Pea flowers and a nice early healthy crop of Broad Beans, making them resistant to black fly.
Both can be sown in multi purpose compost in long pots or root trainers, shorter pots will restrict root growth and the key here is to create a strong root system. I use loo roll inners, one seed per pot, dampen slightly and leave somewhere light and frost free to germinate. They do not need warmth, so an unheated/cool greenhouse or cold frame is ideal. DO NOT overwater, too wet and the seeds will rot and germination will be poor.
Once the broad beans are up they can be planted directly outside into the veg patch, surviving all snow and frost that winter brings, ready for an early crop next summer.
Sweet peas will stay inside the greenhouse or cold frame until next spring, you will need to keep pinching out the central growing tips to stop them from growing too long and leggy, a strong root system is your goal. Plant out when frosts are over, autumn sown sweet peas are early to flower with longer strong stems.
Keep sowing winter lettuce, sow now and you will be eating healthy leaves until spring. Mixed seed packets of winter leaves are best eg, Mizuna, Rocket & Pak Choi or try the lettuce variety All Year Round, slow to grow but super tasty, keep sowing in the greenhouse every 4 weeks for a continuous supply.
Micro greens are a must for the winter greenhouse or kitchen window ledge, try, broccoli, cress, mustard or radish. I call them speedy seeds as within a week they are ready to eat, a weekly sowing of fresh seeds will keep you going all winter. Scatter the seeds thickly on damp compost and lightly cover with more compost. Don’t let them dry out especially if they are in a warm kitchen. You can use seed trays, guttering or even better reuse clean plastic food containers, anything that will sit on a window ledge neatly. Watch out for water spills, if your container has holes in the bottom, sit your container on a tray if this is the case.
Radishes are winter gems. Small in size but big on flavour. Sow in pots and containers or in raised beds in the greenhouse. Sprinkle a few seeds every 4-6 weeks on damp compost, cover with a dusting of compost, water sparingly and in 6-8 weeks they will be ready to eat. To harvest simply pull the leaves at the base and the radishes should come up easily. Remember radishes will grow faster in a heated greenhouse so you may wish to sow every 4 weeks for a steady supply. Sow now and you will have radishes for Christmas!
Tidying Tasks for the Greenhouse
Once old plants and debris have been removed from the greenhouse, wash everything down to eradicate any pests. Wash out old seed trays, pots and containers and store neatly ready to use next spring.
Wash the glass inside and out, you will be amazed at how much dust and grime collects and sticks to the glass. It is important to let as much light in as possible on these darker days especially if you are growing any of the above winter leaves and Sweet peas. An annual wash should be enough but I try to wash mine in the autumn and later winter.
Move citrus trees back inside if they have been outside on holiday for the summer. Remember to change their feed back to the winter one. Top dress with more compost too.
Last but not least, collect all those falling leaves regularly. If they sit too long on the soil or lawns they will prevent light getting through and will encourage pests and diseases to move in! Why not make a leaf mould from them, fill black bin bags with leaves, make a few holes in the bags for air to circulate and store somewhere out of the way, next spring you will have a lovely mulch to spread on beds and borders.
For more tips and tricks like these, join me for a virtual workshop on 18th November at 3.30pm as I run through how to grow and sow broad beans and microgreens.