By Janey Goulding published
If you were thinking there couldn’t possibly be more vegetables to plant in October – think again! There is still plenty that you can do to kickstart both slower-growing spring feasts and quicker treats for winter harvests. Whether you’re looking to fast-track tangy mustard leaves or overwinter beans for a better tasting harvest, we’ve got everything you need to keep your kitchen garden active and productive.
Yes, there may be less warmth and light to play with, but some of our ideas will benefit from the extra time you give them now. Meanwhile, quick-maturing crops can be started indoors and enjoyed over the more dormant months. As horticultural expert Chris Bonnett points out: ‘When October sets in, there are still vegetables that are perfect to grow. Just remember, at this time of year, that an early frost is more likely, so protect any outdoor crops with tents, fleeces, cloches and cold frames.’
Don’t let the fear of winter chills deter you from including some different varieties of veg in your kitchen garden ideas this month. Just stay on top of the weather, and add protection and support where necessary. There are still lots of opportunities to nurture future crops with raised garden beds as well as indoor sowing – and have fun doing it. Indeed, one of the crops below is so simple to grow, you don’t need soil or compost. So take advantage of cooler conditions and indoor spaces, and get cracking on a host of yummy treats. You’re welcome…
Vegetables to plant in October: 10 crops to grow now
We've rounded up the key vegetables to plant in October. Whether you’re in the mood for pungent bulbs, peppery leaves, tender spears or instant sprouts, our essential veggie growing guide is sure to sort you out.
Prolific, plump, easy to grow and endlessly versatile – garlic should be top of your list of vegetables to plant in October. This month is a great time to learn how to grow garlic, as Amateur Gardening’s fruit and veg expert Lucy Chamberlain explains. ‘Spring plantings don’t have as much time in the ground to bulk up. If you start crops off in autumn, you’ll have a better chance of creating decent, bigger bulbs,’ says Lucy. ‘The extra growing time encourages a more extensive root system to form, which in turn gives more foliage to fuel large heads.’
Just don’t use supermarket cloves – order from a garden center or seed supplier to be sure yours are disease-free. Choose from hardneck or softneck varieties, and stick to hardier varieties. Lucy recommends ‘Extra Early Wight’ (a flavorsome hardneck) and ‘Picardy Wight’ (a plump and juicy softneck), both robust enough to tolerate winter conditions. There’s also violet-streaked softneck ‘Germidour’, marbled ‘Caulk White’ (Suttons) and ‘Elephant’ for monster cloves.
Garlic grows best in full sun and well-drained sites. Organic fruit and veg expert Bob Flowerdew says: ‘If your soil is rich, moist and weed-free and the site is sunny, you’ll get huge specimens. When it’s poor, dry and shady with weeds, you’ll get small ones.’ The standard method is to plant cloves in situ to overwinter. ‘Growing in ridges and under cloches makes the soil better drained and warmer,’ says Bob.
If your soil is heavy or prone to winter waterlogging, you can start your garlic off in raised garden beds, or in modules under a cold frame before then planting out in spring. Alternatively, Bob suggests you can move garlic outside in large containers after hardening off. ‘If they sit in a sunny spot, plants grow fast. With regular watering and feeding, very large bulbs and cloves can be had,' says Bob.
Once planted, you won’t have to worry about much. Just keep an eye out for onion white rot and leek rust: be sure not to crowd plants in order to minimize the risk of infection. It's also a good idea to grow the best companion plants for garlic alongside your crop to ensure you get the healthiest and most prolific harvests.
2. Broad beans
If you want to get a head start on next year’s broad bean harvests, then this is one of the best vegetables to plant in October. Chris Bonnett, horticultural expert and founder of Gardening Express, points out that certain legume varieties hold their own even with sharp drops in winter weather. Hardy beans can cope with temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C). This means you can start them now for happy harvests at the end of spring.
‘It’s highly beneficial and smart to grow these beans over winter – just make sure you can cover them with a fleece if there is a chance it might get really cold,’ says Chris. If you live in a mild or sheltered area with light or sandy soil, you can sow direct as long as you have fleece or a cloche to hand. If you are worried about severe chills or waterlogging, or have a heavier clay soil, start them off indoors or in pots under a cold frame.
Amateur Gardening’s Lucy Chamberlain loves making autumn sowings of broad beans. As well as being super-early to mature in spring, the plants also provide you with a huge yield due to a supremely advanced root system, she notes. Lucy, who has carried out numerous trials of autumn versus spring sowings, has found that sowings made in late October (if successful) give bigger yields. ‘I love this job, because it’s full of promise and is a positive step towards the new year,’ says Lucy.
If you're interested in learning how to grow broad beans, the classic variety to sow is heroically hardy ‘Aquadulce Claudia’: a very reliable longpod type that produces impressive yields from tall plants. However, you can also experiment with newer, early-maturing ‘De Monica’ (Suttons), generously filled and tender ‘Meteor’, and sticky dwarf ‘The Sutton’, which copes well in containers and on exposed sites.
Sow in 4-6in (10-12cm) pots under glass. ‘It’s important the pots are this large so seedlings can sit in them all winter,’ says Lucy. Alternatively, if the soil is warm, sow into a prepared bed in a grid formation, 8in (20cm) apart each way. It can help to fork in well-rotted manure or compost before sowing. After sowing, use a hoe to keep on top of weeds, add supports for taller varieties, and keep coverings handy.
Top tip: Choose your broad bean variety wisely, as not all will be suitable for an autumn or fall sowing. As a general rule, longpod varieties are the hardiest, so stick to these and you won’t go far wrong. This type produces longer pods and more beans with a substantial feel to them.
3. Spring cabbage
Often referred to as the ‘daddy of brassicas’ or the ‘king of the greens’, cabbage is the unassuming stalwart that keeps you covered all year round. Because of that, you can be working on your next cabbage crops even in these cooler months. That makes this popular heavyweight a natural choice for our selection of vegetables to plant in October.
What sets spring cabbage varieties apart is that they tend to be leafier, looser, darker, sweeter and tender – not usually grown for the firm crunchy ‘hearts’ found later in the season. Thanks to this, they are often easier to grow and cultivate.
Great spring cabbage varieties include AGM ‘Advantage F1’, sweet heritage ‘Durham Early’ and bolt-resistant ‘April’. Dynamic conical ‘Wheelers Imperial’ is another fine heritage type, while ‘Winter Jewel F1’ has superb disease resistance, and ‘Spring Hero’ is a newer, crispier take on the standard.
For best results, select an open, sunny or semi-shaded spot with a fertile, well-draining, neutral-alkaline soil. We recommend starting some off both in modular trays and direct in the ground using a seed bed, as an insurance policy.
Keep an eye out for cabbage root fly and cabbage white caterpillars. You can guard against these by growing under netting once planted out. Apart from that, spring cabbages are very low-maintenance. The main crop are ready to harvest from early March, depending on your variety. Cut through the stem with a sharp knife just above ground level once they’ve developed a good sized head. Don’t forget you can enjoy smaller greens before the main head develops. Also, for a bonus crop, cut a cross in the stump and you get several small cabbages a few weeks later.
You might find that your cabbages benefit from companion planting. Grow with nasturtiums to deter cabbage white butterflies, and mint to deter flea beetles.
You can also find out more about how to grow cabbage with our complete guide to cultivating this hero crop all year round.
In our rundown of vegetables to plant in October, we urge you to make room for some aromatic basil. As a focal point for your indoor herb garden, basil is a lovely low-maintenance crop. Just give it a sunny spot in a warm corner, and this versatile herb will thrive and delight.
It's so easy to learn how to grow basil from seed indoors. Amateur Gardening’s Lucy Chamberlain recommends sowing a small pinch per 3in (8cm) pot. Do this successionally for a continuous harvest.
Sow over seed compost and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, then water gently. Place in a propagator or cover with a clear bag. Remove once seeds have germinated. Place in sunshine or under grow lights, and keep the compost moist (but don’t overwater as basil doesn’t like to sit in the wet for long). Place in separate pots once plants have two true leaves. Keep indoors, repotting as roots show through the drainage holes.
Alternatively, once the risk of frost has passed, harden off for two weeks in spring and move your basil out into a warm, sheltered spot in a larger container, raised bed or well-drained, fertile soil. Basil can work well in a raised bed with plants such as spinach or tomatoes (find out how to grow tomatoes with our guide).
Keeping a few basil plants on your windowsill or patio container opens up a world of scented options that can liven up any number of Italian and Asian dishes. Whether your preference is for something citrussy like Ocimum x citriodorum or ‘Mrs Burns Lemon’, a classic large-green leaf variety like ‘Genovese’, a compact anise-scented option such as ‘Greek’, or a deeper toned liquorice Thai basil like ‘Siam Queen’, there’s a basil to suit every palate and culinary pleasure.
It might be tempting to dismiss cauliflower as fussy or easy to get wrong – but don’t let that deter you from learning how to grow cauliflowers. A well-formed cluster of tightly packed curds is a joy to behold, making this chunky cropper well worth a place in our list of vegetables to grow in October. Nutty, peppery, full of texture and pleasingly plump: take a chance, and you’ll be rewarded with a feast of gorgeous veggies, stuffed with fibre and B-vitamins. Early-summer cropping cultivars like ‘Snowball’ and ‘Barcelona’ can be quickly sown in cold frames to overwinter at their leisure.
Cauliflowers do their best growing in conditions that might seem like a bit of a contradiction. They are cool season brassicas and relish having moist, fertile soil against their roots. However, they are also sun-lovers and need light to develop the protective leafy layers that keep their nutritious curds well covered as they fill out. They also like humidity, so regular watering is crucial.
Knowing exactly when to harvest your fully formed cauliflower crops might take a bit of practice to get right: so much depends on the variety you choose. As a general rule, the head should be firm and compact. Don’t wait until those little florets start to open and split – a sign that it is moving past its peak of flavor.
There are plenty of great varieties to try, including:
- ‘Seoul F1’: this autumn-sown variety has a reputation for developing a vigorous root system so plants perform well under stressed conditions. Sown in a seedbed, this densely packed beast matures in 20-26 weeks.
- ‘Barcelona’: high quality cauliflower that is ideally suited to an October sowing. Sown in cells, this variety matures in 90-100 days. Beautiful bright white curds with a delicious peppery flavor.
- ‘Boris’: resilient variety that is tolerant of different soil types. These bright white curds are popular in kitchens and exhibitions. Overwinter in a cold frame and plant out in March for happy harvests in June.
- ‘Snowball’: so compact, the curds feel like a solid ball of flavor! This popular cropper delivers snow white florets that can also be frozen without any discernible drop in quality. A great all-rounder.
6. Winter-hardy peas
If you’re like us, you’re never far from fantasizing over your next fix of pretty peas. The good news is, as soon as you wave goodbye to a summer of pods, you can crack on with the next batch. Peas are prolific, compact and unfussy, making them a dream pick for our list of vegetables to plant in October. And there’s more, as Lucy Chamberlain points out. ‘The advantage of sowing peas now instead of spring is earlier maturity, plus a sizable root system that gives impressive yields,’ she says.
The key to success with autumn sowing is to use only hardy varieties, and to make sure you avoid waterlogging. The quality of your soil will have a major bearing on how you sow. If you have a sandy, well-drained soil, it is advised to sow direct. Make sure you can cover emerging plants with cloches in the event of frost and snow. Cloches are also handy for other reasons, as Chris Bonnett points out. ‘While peas are ideal to grow during October for an early crop, this can attract mice – so cloches are vital,’ he says.
If you don’t have the right soil or are worried about exposure, sow into deep pots, place in a cold frame and plant out in March. If you aren’t sure what kind of soil you have, don’t worry. Our guide to soil types can help you figure out the best way to proceed.
The best pea varieties for October sowing will be round-seeded varieties, which are naturally better suited for colder, wetter conditions. Wrinkled seeds, by comparison, have plenty of crevices for water to be held and are best for spring sowings. Great options include ‘Douce Provence’ and ‘Meteor’, which have a neat, dwarfing habit. They have a high tolerance for exposed sites, so are great for balcony gardens and roof gardens. These hardy varieties are also easy to cover. ‘Meteor’ even grows edible flowers. Another good hardy pea variety is ‘Feltham First’, a traditional high-yielding favorite.
7. Japanese onions
Autumn-planting onions (aka Japanese onions) are perfect vegetables to plant in October. Put simply, these hardy overwintering onions make the most of shortening calendar days and tougher conditions. They are low maintenance and can be left to their own devices – great news for us busy gardeners! And you can count on them to slowly but surely mature in the chilly weeks ahead, before bursting forth with flavor in spring.
As Chris Bonnett points out: ‘Onions are tough enough to withstand the cold weather throughout the winter. Just keep an eye on them, and if the conditions get too frosty, you can always cover them with a fleece to be on the safe side.’ Not only will sets started off now mature more rapidly than spring plantings, they are a great way of making use of spare plot space. Oh, and you can feel smug, knowing that your harvests will have bigger bulbs. What’s not to love?
Autumn-planting varieties include a range of colors, characteristics and pungencies. Choose brown-skinned ‘Radar’ and ‘Troy’ for bolt resistance and for squaring off against the worst of the winter weather. Then there’s the shiny red-skinned ‘Electric’, a really attractive salad bowl beauty which keeps for up to four weeks from harvest. ‘Snowball’ is a nice white-skinned option with a mild taste. ‘Toughball’ has a good tolerance to botrytis and downy mildew. And not forgetting ‘Senshyu Yellow’ – the classic globe variety that can survive temperatures as low as -18°C!
Japanese onions are well worth a spot on your plot, even more so when you consider their health benefits. As well as helping fight inflammation, they reduce high blood pressure and protect against blood clots. They are an excellent immune booster, and help to regulate blood sugar levels. Studies indicate that they also reduce the body’s cholesterol levels, which may lower the risk of heart disease. All this from autumn planting onion sets – so what are you waiting for? If you want to find out more about how to grow onions, follow our guide.
Top tip: Make sure the ground you choose for your onions is firm, but not compacted. Good drainage is essential – if the bulbs sit in water in winter, they risk rotting. Keep an eye out for onion downy mildew too; another problem in damp conditions. Ensure ample airflow around plants, and don’t overwater.
While many gardeners focus on learning how to grow asaparagus around March or April, autumn is an ideal time to get those crowns in the ground. And while you might not be able to enjoy this delicacy for a few years, we promise you it’s worth the wait – and you can reap the rewards for decades after!
Asparagus plants are large, bushy affairs and need to be planted in the ground – they won’t be happy in containers. And although asparagus can be grown from seed, October is the time to plant one-year-old dormant crowns (and with crowns, you don’t have to wait as long for the crops – just two years). These plants grow best in light, well-drained soil in an open, sunny spot or dappled shade. If you have heavy soil, try a raised bed instead. Make this spot a dedicated asparagus bed: don’t be tempted to mix with other veg. If the soil is acidic, lime it first. Also, prep the soil with some organic matter, and make sure it is free from weeds.
If you plant crowns in October, you can harvest asparagus spears in the third year. Wait until mid-April when they are 7in (18cm) tall.
You’re spoiled for choice if you want to grow asparagus. Canadian-bred ‘Guelph Millennium’ is a consistent top performer, reliable in most soils and highly cold tolerant. ‘Mondeo’ is an all-male hybrid with excellent disease resistance. ‘Gijnlim’ is a pretty AGM cropper with bright green spears and deep purple tips, while ‘Pacific Purple’ is a vibrant, tender beauty that’s loaded with antioxidants. Heavy cropper ‘Jersey Knight’ is resistant to crown rot, rust, and fusarium wilt, while ‘Supreme’ is an excellent choice for light, sandy soils.
9. Spicy mustards
If you’re worried your autumn plantings won’t cut the mustard, this seasonal job will definitely sort that out! These zippy leaves should be in any keen gardener’s shortlist of vegetables to plant in October – growing them is quick, easy, fun and full of flavor. As long as you have a spare undercover space for growing, you can grow mustard for a delicious cut-and-come-again treat. Just maintain a regular temperature and keep a watchful eye on your colorful crops under glass, and you’re all set for a show of spicy, savory mustard greens.
As well as being vibrant and full of flavor, mustards are impressively nutritious. One cup boasts 500% of your daily intake of Vitamin K, along with a generous dose of fibre, manganese and other vitamins. It’s so densely packed with goodness, it’s basically a superfood – but such is the way of all superheroes, mustard is modest and unassuming, and growing it is utterly fuss-free. And if growing these zingy leaves wasn’t enticing enough, mustards also produce spicy seeds if they are left to mature. The main types are white (mild), brown (spicy) and black (best for seeds).
Just grab a max/min thermometer and a heat mat, and make sure containers will be positioned off the floor in the warmest spot (above 6°C), whether that’s a greenhouse or a sunny windowsill. Amateur Gardening’s Lucy Chamberlain recommends shallow trays rather than taller pots, so the heat from the mat will be felt by seeds and seedlings. Plant fresh seeds every three weeks for a steady supply of tangy leaves. Place each one just under the surface of the compost, half an inch (1cm) apart, and thin seedlings to 3in (8cm) apart. That’s it! Spicy mustard leaves can be harvested in just 40 days. Using the come-again-cut-again method, you can stimulate further growth for months.
For added zing, try a mix-and-match of different varieties, or blending with other leaves such as mizuna and spinach (to find out how to grow spinach, follow our guide). Lucy admits she enjoys mixing up savory leaf packets and sowing into trays or greenhouse borders for a tingly medley. ‘It’s fun to mix mustard varieties like ‘Red Giant’ with trays of miner’s lettuce (claytonia) or thickets of spinach and pea shoots, and repeat every few weeks,’ says Lucy.
There are plenty of great mustard varieties to try, including:
- ‘Red Giant’ This startling scarlet beauty grows thick and fast, and the taste is sublime. It’s a popular choice for the cut-and-come-again crowd, with large magenta leaves and a pleasing crunchy bite.
- ‘Full On And Fiery’ Developed by James Wong, this Suttons blend is a fiery fusion of wild rocket, mizuna and spicy mustards that is sure to make the taste buds tingle. Sowing to harvest takes two to three weeks.
- ‘Osaka Purple’ A highly ornamental mustard that combines deep green leaves with violet highlights and bright white veins. This pretty purple microgreen is sublime for a bit of jolly Japanese bite.
Ok, so we admit this isn’t technically a veggie that you grow by planting. However, we couldn’t resist cheating a bit and including this one in our list of key vegetables to plant in October. It’s fun, nutritious and a key crop in winter stir-fries! What’s more, it’s one of the fastest-developing grow-your-own nibbles you’ll try (a few days is all it takes), and you can grow loads in a relatively small space: what’s not to love about that?
Sprouting is the fundamental process of germination, which is how every vegetable gets started. The difference here is that rather than planting the results of germination, you eat these crunchy legumes straight away.
To grow beansprouts, it’s typically easiest to use mung beans (Vigna radiata), a relative of the broad bean (and also known as the wild mung or mash bean). Stick to whole, untreated mung beans from health stores or online catalogs; don’t be tempted to use seeds or beans sold for planting, as the chances are that those will have been treated. Mung beans and lentils are the easiest for growing bean sprouts – you can also grow sprouts from alfalfa seeds and chickpeas, they just need a little more time.
What else can I do for veg in October?
- Move small pots of parsley, oregano, mint and chives into warmth indoors. You’ll get bursts of lush, green growth for months (you can find out more about how to grow mint by following our guide). Smaller, hardier herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme will thrive in a long trough outdoors. If you grow tender perennial crops such as lemongrass, lemon verbena, ginger or galangal, now is the time to move them into a frost-free glasshouse.
- Celeriac growers need to keep beds well weeded, pick off any celery leaf miner damage, and ‘prune’ the plants by removing the outer, lower leaves as new ones push through the centre. This exposes the harvestable part and eases any foliage congestion. Once they are large enough, lift them, trim off any excess roots and place in boxes of damp sand.
- Those of you who followed our guide on how to grow chillies will hopefully be finding plenty of fruits coloring up – in fact, maybe now you have too many on your hands? Tackle gluts by turning them into chilli jam. ‘Recipes based on sugar, garlic, sweet peppers and cider vinegar make great Christmas hamper additions’, says Lucy. ‘Relishes and chutneys add mustard seeds, onions, tomatoes, herbs and seasoning.’ Or dry into pretty string ristras that keep for years.
- Cover any tender tubers with straw, held down with netting. Oca, yacon and sweet potato don’t bulk up till late autumn, and this layer prolongs their growth. Good mulching materials include straw, scrunched-up newspaper and dried leaves. Lay around the roots of your crop, and then cover over the plants with a cloche. To find out more about how to grow potatoes, read our guide.
- If followed our guide on how to grow winter brassicas and planted them in summer and watched them flourish in autumn, don’t let all your hard work go to waste by letting winter gales break them. If your garden is exposed to blustery weather, stake Brussels sprouts, kale and sprouting broccoli while they are small. Insert a cane or stout stick alongside each plant, and secure the stalk. Also earth up around the stems of Brussels sprouts.
- Winter squashes, butternuts and pumpkins need sunlight to cure their skins for storage. Any you harvest now should be set out in a sunny, dry spot to maximise winter longevity (and to find out more about how to grow butternut squash, follow our guide). Yes, we all know how popular pumpkins are in October, but these crops can be kept for a surprisingly long time – so think ahead. Keep a short length of stalk attached, as breaking it off can cause rotting, says Lucy. Then store in a warm, dry place away from frosts. Do this right, and they will keep until March.
Keep an eye on fruit jobs in October
- Insulate against chilly nights by shutting glasshouse vents and doors, so grapes, figs, melons and other undercover fruits can ripen (find out more about how to grow figs with our guide). If you have frost-tender fruits, you also need to get ready to move potted finger limes, feijoas, pomegranates undercover as temperatures fall.
- At this time of year, it’s essential to bring citrus plants back inside into a frost-free, well-lit spot, says Lucy Chamberlain. Then watch out for scale insects, red spider mite and mealy bugs. These pests will thrive in a warm, indoors environment so need thwarting with a fatty acid- or plant oil-based insecticide. Switch from a summer to winter citrus feed, says Lucy.
- Now is a great time to grow quinces. These attractive trees require much the same conditions as pears: full sun, shelter and a fertile, deep, moisture-retentive yet free-draining soil. If you’re on a light sand, then add generous amounts of well rotted organic matter, and mulch. Those with waterlogged plots are best to plant into containers.
- Raspberry care takes two forms now. For summer types such as ‘Glen Ample’, prune out this year’s fruited canes to the base (these will be yellow-brown). ‘New canes produced this summer can be thinned out to one every 6in/15cm of row; choose the strongest and cull the weakest,’ says Lucy. Autumn-fruiting varieties like ‘Polka’ will still yield berries in mild weather. So cloak the rows in a double layer of horticultural fleece. Find out more about how to grow raspberries with our guide.
- Pot up congested fruit plants. A larger container is far preferable to a smaller one. Look at the size of the plant’s rootball, then opt for a pot at least 2-3in (5-8cm) wider, with ample drainage in the base. Thick-walled pots (troughs or half-barrels) insulate roots well. If using unglazed terracotta, Lucy recommends lining the sides with polythene to stop moisture loss, or sinking a large plastic pot within it. Our guide to growing fruit in pots has more on crucial container care for key crops.
Hopefully, we’ve given you plenty to be getting on with in October. Make the most of these fresh opportunities even if it’s chilly out, and in a few weeks or months you’ll be able to reap the rewards in your kitchen!
As assistant editor of Amateur Gardening magazine, Janey's gardening passion was fostered from an early age, when her amazing mum had her deadheading hydrangeas, mulching roses, and propagating strawberry plants from runners for school open days. Her gardening childhood was like living with Tom and Barbara from The Good Life, with figs growing in the greenhouse, homemade blueberry jams piled high, and demijohns filled with her dad’s elderflower sherry experiments. City living has generally meant doing without a conventional outdoor space, but she is slowly transforming her thimble-sized abode into a haven of vertical vegetation. She's also taken part in lots of conservation and rewilding projects for the RHS and TCV as a way of exploring her horticultural horizons whilst helping to create and maintain beautiful spaces for others. When she grows up, she would like a Victorian conservatory, some proper old-fashioned cold frames and bell cloches, and a better system for storing all her seed packets.
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