After a little rain over the last month the ground is perfect for working whether you are digging, weeding or sowing seeds. Now is the time to sow pea and bean seeds ready for an early crop next year.
Remember last month I gave you tips on composting, how to make compost, when and where to use it and what plants to plant or seeds to sow in ground enriched with compost? Well I composted last month ready for my autumn sowing and plantings. The rain helped fix the compost in the top few centimetres of soil and a quick run over with the rotavator left me with a beautiful tilth, just right for my peas and beans. I make rows to improve the drainage which is essential for legumes, especially those sown in autumn when constant wet can rot the seed, and I make the rows flat on top a full rakes width wide to that I can plant a double row.
Mentioning seeds rotting. You will find two sorts of pea seed, wrinkle seed and round seed. Round seed tend to rot less in wet weather because the water runs off them rather than being trapped in the wrinkly bits, so they are ideal for autumn planting. Wrinkly pea seeds can be sown into late spring when they need all the water round them they can get.
I sow broad beans now for a crop in early spring. A variety I have found that grows well here is Giant Exhibition Longpod. The seeds are planted one hands span apart in double rows in broad trenches 2 inches deep ( up to the second knuckle of a forefinger if you plant individually). Plant seeds alternately on each side of your rake width row as opposed to opposite each other. Replace the soil, tamp down lightly with the back of a rake and give a good water. I do support broad beans because my plot is a bit exposed to westerlies. I put a row of stout canes (cut from the lane and dried) about 1 metre apart with 2 metres showing above the surface down either side of the double rows and run bailing twine between them at handspan intervals. Looks a bit rustic but does the job.
I sow a garden pea called Douce Provence. As the name suggests it is a French variety. The yield is not as heavy as with other peas, nor are they as large, nor do you get as many in a pod – they are probably on the EU hit list - but the taste is wonderful and they continue cropping for at least two months. The packet will probably tell you this variety needs no staking. Well that may be true in the UK but here they definitely need support. Be prepared for them getting to 2 metres tall. I use a double row of canes, covered in pea netting, up one side, across the top and down the other. Sow seeds 2 inches apart either side of your rake width row.
My autumn legume planting is completed with a row of sugar snap peas called Delikett. The small pods are picked when the peas within just show as little bulges. Again the plants will need support. Sow seeds 2 inches apart either side of your rake width row.
Other seeds to sow now in composted ground are: salad onions, lettuce, fennel, radish
Plants and sets to put in composted ground now are: onions, leeks, garlic
Seeds to sow now in ground composted prior to the last crop: carrot, beetroot, swede, parsnips, kohl rabi, turnips, salsify.
Plants to sow now in ground composted prior to the last crop: romanesco, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce.