This week I sowed a winter Turnip, a local heirloom that was developed by Dick Smithson of Beaufort. It’s a Swede or Rutabaga, with a sweet, mild flavour and very easy to grow over winter.
Florence Fennel was also sown because it seems to do better started now and grown in the cooler months, although most books tell you to start it in the spring. Our summers are too hot for it and it will tend to grow tough and stringy bulbs in hot weather.
I started an old variety of Beetroot, called Egyptian. It’s very reliable and the leaves can be used like spinach too. In ancient times beets were cultivated in Egypt, as were Broad beans, or Faba Beans, which were a staple part of the diet. They can be sown now . I have Red Seeded Peruvian broad beans which are a compact bushy plant , less susceptible to wind damage. The pods and seeds are smaller than the common varieties, but this means less tough skins on the seeds and a sweeter flavour.
This is the time to start onions, and garlic of all varieties as they do well over winter and can be harvested in spring. I grow easy varieties, such as the Russian Garlic, which is really a Leek which makes giant cloves and tall stems with big purple flowers which are very ornamental. and the very old Walking Onions which go by many names, and develop into a clump of bunching onions like French Shallots.
Many flowers for spring can be sown now; Peony and Flanders Poppies, Honesty, Hollyhocks and Calendulas. Away from the humidity of the coast, they are free of rust and mildew. Californian Poppies which also come from an arid climate, do very well, and like the Calendulas, will naturalise. Similarly, the Australian Paper Daisies, Helichrysums, can be sown now for a late winter flowering.