Seed sowing in August

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What seeds could be sown this month? Winter vegetables are the obvious contender here – although some of them should have been started last month, but hey, no-one’s perfect. And anyway, nature’s calendar isn’t on her desktop or iphone so she’s less bothered about it being August as such but instead considers the weather (hot, cold, wet, dry) and how long the day is.

A method of seed dispersal

Maybe before we get onto which seeds to sow, we should look at why sowing seeds in late summer is a good idea. For many plants, it is the natural time to set seed and hope that it is dispersed to a suitable place where the seeds can then germinate. Annual flowers such as Papaver rhoeas (field poppy, cultivars of which we enjoy in our gardens) let loose their seeds to cover as wide an area as possible in the hope of finding a good growing place. The soil should be warm from the sun’s rays over spring and summer, if there’s also enough moistness, then these seeds will immediately start the germination process and small plants will appear before late autumn. They go into semi dormancy over winter, and most survive hard frosts to romp away in the spring, flowering earlier than their spring sown relations.  In your own garden, you could either collect the seed and sow it where you would like poppies next year;  or let the poppies do their own thing, taking out any plants that have germinated in the wrong place.

Other annual flowers which would naturally germinate at this time of year would be Calendula officianalis (marigold), Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist), Centurea cyanus (annual cornflower) Cosmos bipinnatus and Cerinthe major purpurascens (honeywort). In fact any flower or plant described as a ‘self-seeder’ can be left to do its own thing, making your garden low maintenance so you can relax in the garden with the kids or a cup of tea.

Calendula officianalis

Why else might we want to sow seeds now rather than the spring? Dinner would be a good reason. Many salad crops still have time to germinate and produce a crop before the autumn; Mizuna, salad rocket, coriander and ‘cut & come again’ varieties of lettuce such as oak leaf are all suitable.  Even later sowings of these will give you early salads in the spring. The easy way to accomplish this is to let some of your August sowings self seed.

Other vegetables can be sown now to provide winter salads and ‘greens’ for soups and stews. Cabbage and Kale, obviously, but why not try Swiss chard, which will also look decorative if you plant ‘rainbow lights’ with yellow, red and orange stems as well as green.  These crops will stand outside whatever the weather, but other crops can be sown now and grown under cover. Mustard leaves (‘green in snow’ is such an evocatively named variety!) ‘all year round’ lettuce and spinach are all worth trying.

There are other seeds that can be sown or should be sown at this time. For example, if you prefer to grow your onions from seed rather than sets (small bulbs). There are also green manures to protect and improve your soil and perennials that will grow from seed… But I think I’ve probably given you some ideas and options if you would like to try sowing seeds in August.

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