After last weeks brilliant article on late sowings of peas and carrots I got a number of mails asking what other vegetables can be sown at this time of year. I am always surprised at how many people assume June is too late to start a vegetable garden but as you will see below there are still loads of things you can still put in.
It is also worth remembering that vegetable growing is a yearly cycle so no matter where you jump on there will always be something to do. Spring cabbage, for example is sown towards the end of this month for harvesting next Spring while you will have to wait till Autumn to put in your garlic which will be ready next July. Yes, by June you have missed sowing crops that need a long season to ripen (tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, onions etc….) but there are still plenty of options to fill out the rest of the Summer.
I have included a list of vegetables you still have time to sow with a little information on each. I have also included links to the seeds mentioned in the text and below the article. There’s still loads of fun to be had in the garden!
Dwarf French Beans / French beans / Runner beans
You can sow French and runner beans up until the end of June and harvest beans well into the Autumn. All beans are easy to handle and sow so especially good for encouraging children in the garden. The coiling vines are also fast growing and energetic so fun to watch.
Climbing French beans and runner beans will need a wigwam or similar for support with 4 or 5 beans planted at the foot of every cane. If your garden gets good sunshine but is exposed to wind a dwarf variety may be more suitable. Bear in mind outdoor success with the above depends on how the Summer pans out and (it needs to be warm) and how Northerly your garden is.
Beetroot can still be successfully sown in June and often gives a better crop especially if the spring was cold. The trick to succulent, non woody beets is uninterrupted fast growth. Beets sown in the warmth of June with establish very quickly, be mindful of dry weather as they will need plenty of moisture to avoid getting tough.
Beetroot is also a handy crop to sow in June as it suffers from very few pests and diseases so can be sown in any available gaps without worrying too much about crop rotation. For a succulent beet with very little bitter aftertaste go for ‘Pablo‘.
If you want sprouting broccoli next Spring the best time to sow is mid June. Apart from varieties bred to flower in the same year they are sown, sprouting broccoli is sown in Summer, left in the ground over Winter and is harvested the following Spring. The idea is they fill the ‘hungry gap’ at a time when there is little else to harvest. If sown too early, the plants may flower in Autumn or become too big to survive the Winter.
Green or purple sprouting broccoli plants are large so remember you will need a spacing of 75cm between rows and plants.
Brussels sprouts are also a vegetable that is sown in Summer but harvested over the Winter. Harvest time is relative to when they are sown with a choice of sowing in March, April or May. Sprouts sown in modules should be planted out in mid June for harvesting over Winter. We still have sprout transplants if you need some.
The most reliable sprouts are F1 varieties as the sprout ‘buttons’ stay closed for longer, ‘Brigitte F1‘
Winter and Spring cabbage
Available in many guises, you can be harvesting this delicious vegetable nearly all year round. Cabbage types range from pointed types which tend to be early, classic round, ball head Summer types and crinkly savoy cabbages (e.g. ‘Vertus’) which are harvested over Winter.
We are a little late for Summer cabbage in mid June but we still have time to sow Savoy varieties for Winter harvesting. You will need to sow Savoys straight away as they need to get plenty of growing done before growth stops in November. Pointed Spring cabbages (April) are sown from July till August where they will put some growth down before Winter and take off again in Spring.
Strictly speaking broccoli refers to the sprouting, usually Spring harvested, purple and green varieties mentioned already. The large green heads often labelled as broccoli in the shops is actually calabrese.
Calabrese is faster growing than broccoli and takes up less room. The flavour and crunch of a freshly picked head is vastly superior to the stuff in the shops so well worth growing. The variety we find most reliable is ‘Green Magic‘.
Calabrese can be sown from late March until late June. The spacing you choose will determine the size of the head. If you want large heads go for 45cm between plants in rows 60cm apart, for smaller heads reduce the spacing to 15cm in rows 60cm apart. If you have the room I think larger spacings are better because once the main head is harvested the plant will produce a number of smaller heads, with closer spacings the smaller heads are produced all at the same time.
Carrots really should be sown by the last week in May but I often sow them up until the end of June and still get very worthwhile crops, especially if we have a good Autumn. I grow everything in raised beds so I can leave my carrots in the ground over Winter and pull them as I need them. It is important to keep them covered with insect mesh if you’re doing this or they will be damaged by carrot roof fly.
It sounds odd but if you are sowing late you may be better with early varieties like ‘Early Nantes‘ as they mature quicker. Maincrop varieties like ‘Autumn King‘ or ‘Rothild‘ can still be sown but may not reach full size before you harvest them or growth stops in November. Round rooted varieties like ‘Paris Market Round’ are also very handy for late sowing and produce sweet carrot balls which are delicious roasted.
If you have a Southerly garden which is hot and dry then late sown cauliflowers might not be such a good idea as they prefer cool growing conditions with relatively high humidity. Every garden excels at something, in my case the North Westerly maritime climate brings cool, moist Summers, not great for the beach but perfect for cauliflowers. My children are over the moon….
You can sow all varieties up to mid June if your garden is suitable. Recently I have been growing mini cauliflowers like ‘Igloo’ as I find small cauliflowers much handier to use, when do you ever use the full head of a large cauliflower in one go? For full size cauliflowers you can’t go far wrong with ‘Aviron‘.
Also much loved by slugs, Chinese cabbage is a wonderfully fresh and crunchy vegetable for use in salads as well as steamed or stir fried like pak choi. It is also one of the main ingredients in kimchi, the unbelievably good fermented Korean side dish.
Chinese cabbage is best sown in June and July as Spring sown plants will bolt. Because slugs like it so much you are best starting it off in modules for planting out 4 weeks later. It will like a fertile soil so add plenty of seaweed/poultry manure pellets if it has not been manured already. There are different types with the barrel varieties being most popular, Yuki F1 is a good choice.
Chinese cabbage needs fast and unchecked growth so if the weather is dry make sure to keep watered.
Maybe not one of your standard crops but another one well worth trying. Fennel has a characteristic aniseed taste that goes great with fish or mixed in a salad with cool mozzarella cheese. Like Chinese cabbage it prefers the latter part of the year and can be sown in late May and throughout the month of June.
Sow in in modules because slugs like young plants and plant out 4-5 weeks after sowing. Fennel is prone to bolting if allowed to dry out so watering in dry weather is also essential. ‘Rondo‘ is a good, reliable variety.
Kale has become very popular in the last few years because of its nutritional content but it is still relatively rare in the shops. There are 3 main types including curly, Italian and Russian, they are all ideally sown by early June but can still be sown in late June. Plants will be smaller for over Winter picking but will still give many good dinners.
Kale is an excellent ‘cut and come again’ crop. Pick the outer leaves making sure to leave the immature 6-8 leaves in the centre to grow on. For late sowings plant at a closer spacing of 15-20cm each way and double the number of plants you think you will need.
Kohl Rabi (cabbage-turnip in German) is a quick and easy member of the cabbage family. The tasty, turnip like bulb is actually a swollen stem which, when grown without check is tender and juicy. You can sow kohl rabi up until the end of June, space them 20cm apart in rows 30cm apart for small and sweet harvests. There are white, green and purple versions, we stock ‘Delicacy Purple‘.
There is plenty you can do with it too. It tastes great as an addition to potato gratin but I think is best raw either grated or very thinly sliced. My favourite recipe is the carpaccio with anchovies I got from River Cottage which you can see by clicking the link (this is where I pinched the photo from…)
Lettuce can be sown until the end of July, in milder areas you can even stretch this into August. As you know there is plenty of choice as regards colour, texture and leaf shape. They are easy to grow and are cheap seeds to buy so good to grow more than one variety.
Last weekend I sowed some of the more unusual radish types including ‘Watermelon‘ (above), ‘China Rose‘ and ‘Daikon‘. There are 2 main types or radish, your standard European radish like ‘Cherry Belle‘ and ‘French Breakfast’ and the larger Asian types like those mentioned above.
You will have greater success sowing any radishes after mid Summer as earlier sowing have a tendency to run to seed. European radishes are a fast and easy crop to grow, large Asian types take 8 weeks or so to mature so will be ready at the end of August. I would definitely recommend giving the Asian varieties a try, they look beautiful, have a great peppery flavour and are very versatile in the kitchen.
Despite being called ‘spring’ onions scallions can be sown up to the end of July. It is handy to sow spring onions in modules with 10 seeds in each one. The modules can be planted out 4 weeks later in bunches, they will be ready in 8-10 weeks when you can harvest the full bunch. If you are looking for large, crunchy spring onions sow ‘Ishikura Bunching‘.
Annual spinach also prefers the second half of Summer and can be sown until the end of August, a little later if you have a warm, sheltered garden. Annual spinach is a relatively short lived crop but has better flavour than the long lived perpetual spinach below. You can grow as a baby leaf or a full size crop depending on the spacing you use, 7cm apart for baby leaf and 15cm apart for full heads, rows are 25cm apart for both. As regards varoety we like spinach ‘Banjo‘ as it is slow to bolt.
Perpetual Spinach & Chard
Members of the beet family, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, Rainbow Chard and Rhubarb Chard are essentially the same thing with different coloured stems. You just about have time to sow now for plants that will produce plenty of leaves in Autumn, will easily survive mild Winters and will take off again in the Spring.
The big advantage with these hardy leaf beets is they keep producing leaves pretty much as fast as you can pick them. If I was to give you a tip I would say the white Swiss chard has a better taste than the multicoloured rainbow which I find more bitter.
We are talking about small, white fleshed turnips here rather than large, yellow fleshed swede which needs to be sown earlier. ‘Milan Purple Top‘ is probably the best known turnip but for later sowings I would recommend ‘Tokyo Cross‘ which is the fast growing white ball pictured above.
Like radishes, turnips prefer cool, moist conditions so are an excellent late Summer crop for Northern gardens. You can sow until the end of July and can harvest delicious sweet turnips up to October. Turnips don’t store as well as swede so are best used fresh, I saw a nice recipe the other day for roasted baby turnips with a mustard vinaigrette which you can see by clicking the link.
That’s it for today, I’ll see you next week!