While autumn may be upon us, it’s not too late to engage in sowing and cultivating. By employing effective strategies, it is feasible to nurture crops year-round, even in cooler climate zones. The key lies in selecting appropriate techniques and crop varieties tailored to your specific circumstances.

As September unfolds, my focus shifts to planting pea and bean varieties within my polytunnel garden. Garden peas (Pisum sativum) and broad beans or fava beans (Vicia faba) are prime choices for fall planting, which I often allow to overwinter in the polytunnel for an early harvest in the following year.

The pivotal factor for successful overwintering of crops is the careful selection of suitable varieties. Certain varieties exhibit better resilience to cold winter conditions than others.

Here are some recommended pea and bean varieties for fall planting:

Pea Varieties for Fall Planting:
When opting for peas for cold-weather sowing, prioritize smooth, round-seeded varieties, as they tend to be more robust than those with wrinkled seeds. Wrinkled varieties may be prone to molding in the colder, wetter conditions of the latter part of the year and are better suited for spring sowing.

Some pea varieties well-suited for winter cultivation include:

  • Avola
  • Amelioree d’Auvergne
  • Douce Provence
  • Feltham First
  • Glory of Devon
  • Hatif d’Annonay
  • Meteor
  • Serpette Guilloteau

Among these, dwarf varieties like Douce Provence and Meteor have proven most successful for me. Their compact size not only fits well in the polytunnel but also facilitates easier management during the coldest months, as they can be more effectively covered.

My current favorite is Meteor, boasting excellent cold hardiness and a height of less than 20 inches, making it suitable even for limited spaces.

Additional protection around overwintering peas is necessary, not so much for cold protection but to shield them from creatures like mice and voles. Opting for smaller dwarf varieties during winter proves advantageous, as they can be more easily safeguarded against animal intrusions, a more prevalent concern during the coldest part of the year.

Fava Bean Varieties for Fall Planting:
Fava beans are notably among the hardiest fall crops, capable of successful overwintering in various regions and easily sustained within a polytunnel, as demonstrated in my Scottish garden.

Common fava bean varieties grown in the United Kingdom for overwintering include:

  • Aguadulce Claudia
  • Superaguadulce
  • Witkiem Manita

I have cultivated each of these three varieties in my polytunnel with success, extending to hardier field beans outdoors as well.

For those facing challenges overwintering typical eating varieties of fava beans, hardier field beans present a viable alternative. While primarily grown as cover crops, they also yield an edible harvest, albeit typically smaller than the previously mentioned varieties.