As a keen gardener starting off the new season with early sowings in late Winter and early Spring is a key priority.
The valuable time gains made from sowing seeds undercover means early harvests in the summer and the chance to plan and grow a second set of vegetables for Autumn and Winter harvests.
It also allows plants to become hardy before being planted out in readiness for the last frost of the year.
It makes sense then to raise plants that can tolerate cold temperatures for germination and the last of the arctic weather in late Spring.
Here are 3 of the best vegetables to grow for successful early sowing.
Garlic is the easiest of vegetables to sow early in the season because they can be direct sown straight into the ground.
Provided you’ve given your soil plenty of nutrients, is weed free and free draining then you can direct sow garlic as early as October and leave it sit until harvest time the following summer.
The full extent of your labour during the growing period will be to:
- ensure that the ground around the garlic is kept weed free
- looking out for pests such as allium leaf miner
- looking out for disease such as rust and white rot for which there is not cure
These tasks are as simple as keeping an eye on your garlic patch for any signs of unhealthy looking plants. For white rot you can pull one garlic from the ground when long stems have formed to see if any white fungus material has developed on the bulb.
My planting plan for a zone 8 climate follows multi sowing 8-10 onion seeds in each modules in trays from the middle of February onwards undercover.
Good varieties to choose from include:
- Red baron
- Ailsa Craig
After four to five weeks plant them out as a clump to harvest them first as spring onions leaving some to develop as full bulb onions.
Early sowings from February allows the onions to form strong stalks and develop hardiness to withstand the last frost of the year. Like garlic look out for signs of pests and diseases such as white rot, rust and onions fly.
In Autumn sow White Lisbon Spring onions for overwintering as they’re less susceptible to mildew and will grow into fully grown bulb onions.
Spinach actually needs a period of frost to improve its taste.
When temperatures plummet, the spinach produces sugars to protect its leaves from frost damage which result in a sweeter tasting plant.
Like onions spinach can be multi sown four seeds to a cell and can be planted out as a clump.
As well as early indoor sowings in late Winter, spinach can be sown outdoors in August and September for harvesting in the late Spring.
When planting out ensure there is good space between each plant of approximately 20 centimetres part to encourage air circulation and prevent mildew formation.
Spinach is a ‘cut and come again’ vegetable so harvest the outer leaves regularly for a continuous supply of this hardy nutrient dense leafy green.
For peace of mind cover early sowings once they are planted out with a layer of fleece directly on top of the plants using large stones or bricks to hold the fleece in place.
As plants grow their stems will push the fleece upwards forming a natural canopy.
Early-stage growth is more susceptible to cold winds rather that frost and the fleece will direct wind away and over the plants and give you an excellent head start to the season as well as protecting your first set of vegetables from frost.