If you live in a temperate climate them you will likely think of spring as the main planting season – and indeed it is. But there are other vegetables that can be sown in the autumn. If you want to grow and eat your own food all year round then it can be helpful to consider introducing some undercover or protected growing areas, so you can overwinter annual plant crops in your garden. An unheated polytunnel, or even a large cloche or row cover, will allow you to grow a wider range of plants, even in the depths of winter. Here are a few vegetables to sow in autumn in a cool climate:
Onions are one of the easiest crops to overwinter in a cool climate. They are usually grown from immature bulbs, known as 'sets'. As long as the ground does not become too waterlogged, and especially with a little protection from extreme winter weather, onions will survive in a garden all winter when planted in early autumn. Remember, however, that you should choose varieties suited to overwintering. There are white onion, red onion and shallot varieties that are suitable for overwintering.
Garlic cloves are another crop that can be planted in the autumn. When choosing a garlic variety for overwintering in your garden, it is important to consider the conditions where you live and to choose one that is suitably hardy. Hardneck varieties are usually more tolerant of the cold and are sometimes suitable for autumn planting, especially when protection against waterlogging can be given to the growing area.
Peas are another crop that you can consider sowing at this time of the year. Some peas are suitable for overwintering, while others are best sown in the spring. Make sure you choose your variety or varieties carefully. As a general rule of thumb, peas that are round and smooth will be better for autumn planting, while those which are wrinkly are best sown in the spring.
Broad beans (Fava beans) also have varieties that are best planted in either autumn or spring. It is important to make sure that you choose a variety that is suitable for overwintering where you live. Beans, like peas, should be sown earlier in autumn, to allow them to put on a little (but not too much) growth before the dormant period begins. Canes will support beans and make sure they do not become damaged by winter winds and other weather and, again, some extra protection from the elements can help.
There are also a number of leafy crops that can be sown in early autumn and which can provide you with edible greens over the winter months. Chard, perpetual spinach, chicory, kohlrabi, certain cabbages, kale, and Asian greens such as pak choi are all potential options, and can survive all winter long when given a little protection.