The nights are now drawing in, and another gardening season comes to an end. The veg patch will be looking a little tired and most of us will now be ready for a winter rest, and prepare for next spring.
But with a little thought and preparation it is possible to put your plot to good use and reap the benefit of harvesting crops during the cold dark months between November and February.
Garlic, shallots and onions can be planted now, and basically just left to their own devices. One tip is to keep an eye on the sets when first planted, as birds can pop them out of the soil. Just make sure the roots establish, meaning your crops are sturdy, stable and ready for the winter.
As well as onion sets, winter hardy spring onions are a quick, reliable crop that will survive the cold weather and thrive. The variety to go for is ‘White Lisbon’
Perpetual Spinach is a ‘cut and come again’ crop, a real star. It can be planted pretty much at any time of the year, and will establish quickly, giving you an excellent harvest of tasty leaves. I have even harvested this crop when the plants have been frozen solid, just lower them into boiling water, and you’ll have a great addition to a meal in minutes.
You can get ahead with your broad bean crop by planting the variety Aqualdulce now. This selection is very tough and hardy, and by getting the seed into the ground now will mean you’ll have broad beans on the table weeks earlier than if you plant in spring. The new fresh tips of the leaves are an excellent addition to an early spring salad too.
Likewise, peas are well worth growing. The varieties I go for to succeed in winter are ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ and ‘Meteor’. As with broad beans, getting the seed in the ground in late autumn will give you fresh delicious peas a month or more earlier than spring sowing.
If you have a greenhouse or a polytunnel, giving your vegetable plants a bit of protection, then there are a number of other options. We grow a range of winter salads under cover for all round green leaves. ‘Cut & come again’ varieties are a really good choice. There are a number to choose from, Lambs Lettuce, Mixed Leaves and the lettuce ‘Winter Gem’ are all worth growing.
So, that’s the 2017 season done and dusted. Some things will have done well, others less so, – but we gardeners will be ready and waiting to get going once the spring arrives for another gardening season!
Simon, Alison, Edith the Jack Russell and all at Askett Nurseries.