Plan ahead for spring cabbage and early onions

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 21 September 2016.

Spring 2017 may sound a long way off but it will soon be here. Plan ahead for some garden vegetables to be ready next spring. A burst of freshness will help to fill the ‘hungry gap’ until the spring-sown vegetables are ready in the summer.

Look ahead to spring 2017

Gardeners are always looking ahead and thinking of the next seasons. I do know that ‘Life’ can often get in the way, and I’m certainly not able to follow through on all my gardening plans! The way I look at it, though, doing anything in the right direction is a good thing.

So it’s in that frame of mind that I’m thinking about the soil still being warm after the summer. It’s such a good time to sow seeds. Just look at Nature which is scattering seeds around with abandon: blackberries, rose hips, conkers and all the rest.

Conkers, fruit of the horse chestnut tree. Ahead
Conkers, fruit of the horse chestnut tree
© Andrew Dunn and published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.

And it’s a good time to plant. Plants put in now can establish themselves comfortably before the winter gets started (as it will). Their roots will help to maintain the soil structure and prevent your valuable soil from being washed away.

Let’s talk about onions and cabbages.

Onions in spring

Having your own onions is a delight. They are fresh, firm and you don’t have to lug them back from the shops.

Hang on, you may be thinking. Didn’t we plant onions back in the spring? Yes, we did and outlined how to plant them. And we harvested them a few months ago. Yum.

But there are some other varieties of onion (and also shallot) that can be planted in autumn. Look in your garden centre or supermarket for sets (a small onion bulb that you plant). Plant them now and they’ll get themselves comfortable and be ready by early to mid-summer, perhaps a couple of months before the spring planted ones. Yum again.

The Royal Horticultural Society is, as always, good on onions.

Plant out spring cabbage plants

Spring cabbage – sow in summer, plant out in autumn, cut in late spring and early summer.

Thinking ahead: you’ll be cutting these cabbages in April and May, either as loose ‘spring greens’ or as a tightly ‘hearted’ cabbage. Home-grown greens are streets ahead of shop-bought.

So now, late September/early October, is the time to be planting out spring cabbage plants to overwinter.

What do they like? They like a deeply worked, well drained site and not too rich a soil. Where early peas or potatoes were would be great. The soil should be firm.

How much space do they need? About 30cm (a 12″ ruler) between each plant. Here’s the advice we gave in June.

Harvesting spring greens near Charlton, Worcestershire. Ahead
Harvesting spring greens near Charlton, Worcestershire
© Copyright Liz Stone and licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence


Good gardening!


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