episode 31 | show notes & advice
There are massive gains to be had if you’re willing to take a crack at autumn sowing. It’s a fantastic opportunity to grow some truly giant hardy annuals.
Whether you’re looking to get ahead, add some ornamental additions to the garden, or to encourage stronger roots to protect your edible plants, Sarah & Arthur explain how it’s done.
in this episode, discover...
- The best varieties of ornamental flowers and productive edible veg to sow early
- Which hardy annuals to sow early for truly incredible growth
- How to grow flowers with stronger roots and better disease resistance
- The hardy nature shared by many plants with ‘snow’, ‘frost’ or ‘ice’ in the name
- Sarah’s recipe for a pleasant, delicious chilli jam
links and references
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Episode 31 advice sheet | Autumn sowing
There are huge benefits to sowing lots of hardy annuals now — while the soil is still warm and moist and light levels are still pretty high — so you get good growth before the winter cold sets in.
The benefits are
It’s calmer in the autumn than spring – so a nice time to have a job for the season ahead. There’s lots to harvest, and you’ll be busy with that, but a bit of sowing is a perfect job for September Saturday morning.
Good to think of things to go with your tulips etc which you’re also planting soon – so while the ideas for combinations are fresh in your mind.
You’ll get plants 3 times the size with certain varieties which benefit HUGELY from autumn sowing. Particularly true of the 2 below, but this applies across the board to a lesser extent. If an annual plant is hardy enough and can survive the winter outside, it will benefit as it gets its roots down good and deep and so is then less vulnerable to drought or wind the following spring and summer.
- Ammi majus (and to a lesser extent Ammi visnaga)
- Earlier flowering
- Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ – in cold places, still worth sowing soon and protect it in a cold frame (potted on into 2L pot) as then will be in flower with your tulips in April.
Antirrhinums – much better rust-resistance
Sweet peas – don’t get mildew to the same extent as spring sown
You’ll have things to look at through the winter – foliage, not flower admittedly, but still good to have e.g. Ammi leaves, Cerinthe, Larkspur.
What to sow
CONTAINERS - Our favourites
Viola ‘Tiger’s Eye Red’ (or could buy as seedlings if you don’t want to sow) and ‘Phantom Sorbet’ and ‘Heartsease’ (this is the quickest and easiest to germinate).
Schizanthus ‘Dr Badger’ (if you have a greenhouse) because they’ll flower inside in March/April. Were hugely popular with the Victorians – to stand in for pelargonium collections on smart plant theatres, looking glamorous at pelargoniums downtime.
Linarias – just the same as schizanthus. And even if no greenhouse, worth growing for a sunny window-ledge
It’s all the hardy annuals – here are my top ten for sowing soon.
Consolida (larkspur) best sown direct as they have a tap root, so don’t like being transplanted.
Daucus dara ‘Purple Kisses’ best sown direct as they have a tap root, so don’t like being transplanted.
Daucus dara – wild carrot – as above
Salvia viridis ‘Blue’
Calendula ‘Indian Prince’
Calendula ‘Snow Princess’
Arthur is passionate about even big kales such as ‘Redbor’ as pot toppers. Give you islands of kale all through the winter to look at through the winter.
- ‘Red bor’
- ‘Curly Scarlet’.
- Ideally sown in August but if get going quick early Sept is also ok.
- Bright Lights’
- ‘Lucullus’ even better from autumn sowing.
- How you harvest these is important – which is just picking the outer leaves, always leaving the heart intact. This creates a funny little tree-trunk at the base of the plant where you’ve removed the outer leaves and this lifts the crown of the plant off the cold, wet soil. And makes the plants hardier.
- Hardy winter salads
- Black-seeded Simpson (crunchy)
- Merveille de Quatre Saison (soft)
- Salad leaves
- Salad Rocket
- Mustards e.g. Wasabi, Red Giant
- Hardy winter herbs
- Flat-leaved parsley
- Edible flowers
- Viola ‘Heartsease’ (again – see above)
- Calendulas are worth a try, particularly ‘Snow Princess’ and Arthur is sowing ‘Neon’ in a cold frame, potted on for a pot topper to put out in March to flower with tulips.
- ‘Medania’ – crops will till first hard frost
- ‘Rubino’- with beautiful crimson stems and veins. Wonderful as a cooked/wilted leaf and small leaves also fabulous raw
We plant half under glass – because we have it – and half out in the garden. Then if you have a severe winter, the under-glass ones thrive. Whereas if the weather is bright and mild, the under cover ones might bolt early, but the outside ones are there to rely on.
Don’t forget now is a good time to buy and plant these too – foxgloves, wallflowers etc
Sarah's recipe for Chilli Jam
Fantastic with sausages, wonderful with grilled haloumi or on top of cream cheese on a crostini, and for the vegans, this is also fabulous with sweet potato chips and try it spread on corn cobs instead of butter.
For 2 small (200 ml) jars:
• 500g very ripe tomatoes
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled
• 4 large red chillies (seeds left in if you want your jam hot)
• 6–7cm piece of ginger root, sliced
• 300g golden caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (optional)
• 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
• 1 teaspoon Cardamom pods
• 100ml red wine vinegar
When you’re cooking a glut of tomatoes at the end of the season, don’t multiply everything up equally. Don’t worry about precise measurements either – it’s a relaxed recipe.
For 4 litres of chilli jam
• 4.5kg tomatoes (including the odd green is fine)
• 8 large cloves garlic (or less if using for breakfast too)
• 10 large red chillies – mild to medium hot, half deseeded (if you like it medium)
• 400g ginger, peeled (easiest with a teaspoon)
• 1 kg caster sugar
• 20 black cardamom pods
• 3 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
• 10 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (optional)
• 700mls red wine vinegar
For 9 litres of chilli jam
• 9kg tomatoes (including the odd green is fine)
• 10 garlic cloves
• 15 chillies, seeds left in (I usually use ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ which is not very hot because it’s so prolific and is the main one we grow at Perch Hill)
• 1 ½ kg caster sugar
• 900g ginger
• 60 green cardamom pods
• 20 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (optional)
• 1500mls red wine vinegar
• 20-star anise (left whole)
- Blitz the tomatoes with the garlic, chillies and ginger in a food processor. Pour into a heavy-based saucepan. Add the sugar, cardamom, star anise (or Chinese 5 spice), fish sauce and vinegar, and bring to the boil, stirring slowly. Reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer for about 2hrs, stirring from time to time until it is slightly treacly and darker in colour.
- Store in warm, dry sterilised jars and seal while the mixture is still warm. The longer you keep this jam the hotter it gets. It keeps for a hear or two in my experience. One open, best kept in the fridge.