'What veg can I plant in October?'
If you're trying to find the very best vegetables to sow in October, then you've come to the right place. Because, rather than allow our allotments to fall dormant over the autumn, we've plenty of garden ideas that will help you get your 5-a-day in.
That's right: if you thought the GYO garden trend was just for summer, you can think again, as there are plenty of fast-growing veg and edimentals you can sow over the autumn while the soil is still warm.
The best vegetables to sow in October
Before we answer that 'what veg can I plant in October?' question, it's vital you know that, as you wait for your pumpkins to come to fruition, there's plenty to do around the garden this month.
In fact, from deadheading dahlias and planting daffodil bulbs, to sowing sweet peas and learning how to take cuttings, now is actually a very busy time for gardeners. Especially as you have to get it all done before this important autumn date, too.
Still, there's no reason whatsoever to neglect your vegetable plot – especially as there are so many tasty vegetables to sow in October.
'Traditionally, autumn is the time of harvest,' says Morris Hankinson, the director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.
'But with a little planning and ingenuity its possible to keep the fresh produce coming from you plot by planting right now into the gaps you have created from picking your crops.'
Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.
'"What veg can I plant in October?" is a great question to ask yourself,' continues Morris, 'because even though the weather is changing, we tend to get some useful rainfall, and the soil temperature is still warm, meaning that seeds should grow and develop quickly.'
It's important to note that autumn planting broadly falls into two categories – planting for a crop of fast growing, tender baby veg to be harvested later the same year or planting for an overwintered crop that will be ready earlier next year.
With that in mind, then, here's our pick of the best vegetables to sow in October.
Fast growing vegetables for early autumn planting
If you're hoping to harvest your vegetables later this year (perhaps, say, in time for Christmas dinner), then these are the veg that you need to get planting:
Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew? Potatoes are incredibly versatile, and ever so hearty, making them ideal nosh for the winter months ahead.
'If you have a greenhouse or conservatory, plant 3-5 potatoes in a large plastic sack, old drainpipe, or an old dustbin with holes in the bottom in 15-20cm of compost,' suggests Morris.
'Keep topping up the compost as they grow until they reach the top and enjoy a crop of new potatoes in time for Christmas!'
Where to buy potatoes:
- Crocus: autumn and Christmas potatoes
- Thompson & Morgan: a wide variety of potatoes
- Amazon: seed potatoes
2. Winter lettuce
Think salad is just for summer? Think again!
Christopher O'Donoghue, one of the co-directors at Gardens Revived, says that you absolutely can (and quite possibly should, looking at rising food costs!) plant winter lettuce varieties like Winter Density or Arctic King in the autumn.
'These lettuces are hardy and will continue to produce fresh leaves through the winter,' he adds, although you can use something like this grow tunnel from Amazon to protect them, if you're wondering.
A gardener with over a decade of experience under his belt, Christopher set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Andrew, in 2018 to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.
Where to buy winter lettuce seeds:
- Crocus: a multi-pack of winter lettuce seeds
- Thompson & Morgan: 'winter butterhead' lettuce seeds
- Sarah Raven: mix of winter lettuce seeds
3. Winter radishes
Winter radishes are among the best vegetables to sow in October, as 'they will be ready in a matter of weeks,' says Morris.
Christopher, meanwhile, advises you keep an eye out for certain radish varieties, such as Black Spanish or Watermelon, which will develop a spicy flavour as they grow, and are just as great roasted as they are in salads.
Where to buy radish seeds:
- Crocus: mixed radish seeds
- Thompson & Morgan: a wide selection of radish seeds
- Sarah Raven: a vast range of radish seeds
4. Winter carrots
We know, we know: you're too busy growing carrots from carrot tops at the moment. Still, it's always worth sowing some seeds, too – especially as carrots are a) excellent companion plants, and b) counted among the easiest vegetables to grow.
'Plant winter carrot varieties like Autumn King or Sytan in late summer or early autumn,' suggests Christopher.
'They can be left in the ground and harvested as needed throughout the winter.'
Where to buy carrot seeds:
- Crocus: mixed carrot seeds
- Thompson & Morgan: autumn carrot seeds
- Sarah Raven: carrot 'purple sun' seeds
Dark leafy greens give us a much needed vitamin boost over the winter months, so it's well worth taking the time to plant some now.
'Kale is a cold-hardy leafy green that thrives in winter,' says Christopher. 'Plant it in the autumn, and you can harvest its leaves throughout the winter months.'
Where to buy kale seeds:
- Crocus: kale seeds
- Thompson & Morgan: a wide variety of kale seeds
- Sarah Raven: the winter kale collection
Spinach is another fast-growing salad leaf, so it's definitely among the best vegetables to sow in October.
'Look for varieties bred for winter growth, such as Winter Gem or Arctic King,' advises Christopher.
'They will provide you with fresh spinach leaves during the colder season.'
Where to buy spinach seeds:
7. Cress and alfalfa
Fast growing cress and alfalfa seeds are among the best vegetables to grow in October, even if you don't have any outdoor space! Simply plant them indoors on moist tissue, and cut your crop when it reaches an inch high.
Egg sandwich, anyone?
Where to buy cress seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: Cress 'Extra Curled' seeds
- Crocus: Cress 'Common Plain' seeds
- Sarah Raven: Cress 'Curled' Seeds
8. Turnips and spring onions
Morris has had some success with sowing turnips and spring onions in his vegetable garden over the early autumn.
'Planting sooner rather than later is certainly the way to go with this option,' he says, noting that 'the aim is to get an extra crop of tender young baby vegetables in double quick time while the weather and (most importantly) the soil is still warm.'
Morris adds that you can extend the season if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, cloches or a polytunnel (or even a sheltered south facing border next to a warm wall).
Otherwise, 'sow the seeds directly into the soil, there really is no need to start them in cell trays or pots first at this time of year.'
Where to buy turnip and spring onion seeds:
- Crocus: turnip 'sweetbell' seeds and spring onion seeds
- Thompson & Morgan: turnip 'golden ball' seeds and spring onion seeds
Vegetables for overwintered crops
You can get a head start on next year's harvest now if you start planting these vegetables in October.
1. Broad beans and peas
Broad beans and sweet peas are among the best vegetables to sow in October, according to Monty Don.
'Sow ‘Aquadulce’ broad beans outside for an early harvest next May or June and sow sweet peas in pots and over-winter in a cold frame,' he writes on his popular gardening blog.
Be sure to choose a variety that’s suitable for autumn sowing (the seed packet will tell you this) and plant the seeds in October or November in good soil (not waterlogged) and the seedlings will emerge within a few weeks.
Morris adds that these hardy veg 'won’t grow much more until the days start getting a little longer and less cold next spring, but by April they will be flowering and your harvest will be ready at least a month earlier than spring planted crops'.
Where to buy broad bean and pea seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: Pea 'Douce Provence' seeds and Pea 'Meteor' seeds
- Crocus: Pea 'Early Onward' seeds
- Sarah Raven: a wide variety of broad bean seeds
2. Onions and shallots
Planting onions and shallots in your vegetable garden this October is another great way to get an early harvest next year.
'Buy them as sets (tiny young bulbs) and plant them any time from now until November,' says Morris, 'and remember to just cover the straw coloured tops so the birds don’t take them!'
If you do so, he adds, you will have a new crop of onions as early as June next year.
Where to buy onion seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: A wide variety of onion seeds
- Crocus: A wide variety of onion seeds
- Amazon: A selection of winter onion sets
How often do you you use garlic when you're cooking? Exactly! Keep vampires at bay and plant garlic sets this autumn, then, as they're one of the best vegetables to sow in October.
They should be ready to harvest in early summer, although you can absolutely pick off a few of the green leaves to use as a garnish or in salads as they're growing.
Where to buy garlic seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: 'Autumn Lovers' collection of garlic sets
- Crocus: French garlic for autumn planting
4. Broccoli and spring cabbages
Can you sow broccoli and spring cabbages in October? Absolutely! Just be sure to keep them netted (it should keep hungry pigeons at bay), give them a good liquid feed after planting, and protect them from slugs at all costs.
You can expect your cabbages to be ready from (as the name suggests) early spring next year, while broccoli plugs will likely be primed for harvesting from May.
Where to buy broccoli and spring cabbage seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: A wide variety of broccoli seeds and Cabbage 'Durham Early' (Spring) seeds
- Crocus: A wide variety of broccoli seeds and spring cabbage seeds
One of the most fashionable vegetables around, the humble cauliflower has been rocketed to cult foodie status, so you'll be pleased to know that they are among the best vegetables to sow in October.
While they have a reputation for being tricky to grow, you should be onto a winner if you sow your cauliflowers indoors and then transplant them after about six weeks, once they have at least four true leaves.
Look for early-summer cropping cultivars like 'Snowball'.
Where to buy broccoli and spring cabbage seeds:
What veg can I sow in October?
If you're looking for the best vegetables to sow in October, it's worth considering when you'd like to harvest them. If you want them this winter, stick to fast growing veg like salad leaves, winter carrots, radishes, turnips, and spring onions.
If you're happy to overwinter your veg, then try planting out peas, broad beans, broccoli, spring cabbages, garlic sets, and onions ready for the new year ahead. 'Planting early is not such an issue with these veggies' says Morris from Hopes Grove Nurseries.
'Instead Its a case of choosing super hardy kinds that will put up with the winter cold and come into their own as spring arrives being ready to harvest many weeks earlier than planting the same varieties in the spring.'
It is also a good idea to sow green manures, such as crimson clover, to cover bare areas, prevent weeds, and improve the quality of your soil.
What fruit can I plant in October?
'Bare root fruit trees and bushes are by far the cheapest way to buy new plants for your allotment or garden, and they are the most environmentally friendly option too because they don’t need pots or compost,' says gardening expert Morris.
'Late autumn (October and November) are by far the best months to plant them because the new roots will grow and establish quickly in the warm soil, and the winter rains mean they wont need watering until at least early spring.'
You can also take cuttings from soft fruits, such as gooseberries and currants, to overwinter indoors.
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Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.
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