Time to sow autumn seeds

Vegetables

From now until late next month is the best time for growing plants that will mature in autumn and be used in the following months.

Savoy cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, silverbeet, parsnips, leeks, salsify and swedes can be sown for autumn and winter use.

Asparagus beds should be starting to bear mature shoots. Cut them carefully or young buds just below the surface will be destroyed. Do not allow any of the shoots to grow a top or the plant will be finished for the season.

Runner beans can still be sown. Put them 15cm apart in double rows, with 20cm between rows. When beans come through, stake with straight poles strong enough to withstand the weight of crops in a gale.

Silverbeet grows best in soil enriched with regular watering of liquid manure. That promotes quick, robust growth and produces a broad mid-rib, which can also be used for cooking.

Sweet corn can usually be safely sown early in November. The plant is sensitive to cold winds, late frosts and cold, wet soils. Warm temperatures are necessary for rapid, productive growth. Dress soil with plenty of organic material. To form cobs, plants must cross-pollinate, so place seeds in double rows or groups of five or six, 15cm apart in each direction.

Zucchini, vegetable marrows, squash and pumpkins can be sown outside now.

All vegetable crops can be improved by regular light cultivation of soil around them. It improves aeration and controls weeds before they reach seed-shedding maturity.

Flowers

Nasturtiums are good annuals to grow in dry garden spots, window boxes and hanging baskets. Sow seeds in pairs 30cm apart and thin to one when they sprout.

Dimorphotheca, Eschscholtzia (Californian poppy), Linum, Portulaca and annual chrysanthemums are good to grow in poor, sunbaked soil.

Gaillardia, Verbascum, marguerite daisy, Arctotis, Gazania, scented winter-flowering Iris unguicularis (formerly I. stylosa) and Crassula croccinea (a succulent) are perennials to try in dry sunny spots, while Crocosmia can provide flowers in season from the poorest soils.

Lilium regale is one of the most popular lilies, easily raised from spring-sown seed. In good growing conditions, bulbs will form and produce flowers in two years. Sow in seed-raising mix that has been saturated with water. Cover the seeds with 1cm of mix. Germination may be erratic. During the first season, seedlings seem to direct all their energies into bulb production.

Fragrant old-fashioned annuals include night-scented stock, mignonette and tobacco plant (Nicotiana). Night-scented stocks are easy to grow and do not require a rich soil. Sow near a window or deck used on summer evenings.

Mignonette must be sown in its permanent position as the plants resent being moved. Lime in the soil will help strong growth. Sow seed sparsely and thin plants out early.

Nicotiana is valued for its perfume and trumpet-shaped white or red flowers. Sow seed under cover this month and transplant in early December. It can tolerate a semi-shaded position.

Fruit

Tomatoes can be sown under a cloche, then thinned to two or even one plant in each. Dwarf varieties are recommended.