Self-confessed gardening addict and garden writer Joe Harrison spills the beans on growing vegetables at home over the cooler months.
We’ve all had another very busy year growing our fruit and vegetables, watering, weeding and harvesting. You’ve worked hard this year growing lots, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and long summer evenings. With the colder weather now upon us, perhaps it’s time to clean your tools, put them back in the shed and wave goodbye to your allotment or garden until next year, because you can’t plant or sow anything now in autumn and winter right? Wrong!
There are lots of different vegetables you can carry on growing to keep you busy during the forthcoming months. You may have been extremely organised in the summer and sown or planted lots of lovely brassicas in preparation for the winter months; cabbages, brussel sprouts & cavolo nero for example, which will all hopefully be looking good and healthy right now. If you do have lots of lush greens growing on your plot or in your garden then don’t forget to keep them protected with some netting because those greedy pigeons enjoy them just as much as we do and they won’t leave you any once they have a taste.
If time ran away from you and you didn’t quite manage to sow any brassicas, don’t worry because I’ll give you a few veggies you can get going with right now which will either give you a nice little harvest over the coming months or will give you a huge head start for your growing next year.
If you don’t have a greenhouse, don’t worry, it is possible to directly sow lots of things straight into your plot or garden. Why not have a go at planting onion and garlic sets? Both have a very long growing season and are extremely easy to grow because they are so low maintenance; push them into the ground and make sure they’re kept as weed free as possible and that’s pretty much it until harvest time. The only thing to keep in mind with them is that they won’t be ready to harvest until the summer so they’ll still be there when you begin your spring planting and sowing so a little forward planning may be needed.
If you would like a slightly earlier harvest for your efforts, try sowing a cold hardy variety of broad beans such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ or ‘Valenciana’, which you can enjoy in early spring. I have always found them to be a very easy, hardy vegetable to grow. It always amuses me seeing the tips of the plants standing proudly to attention, poking out the top of a few inches of snow, but still happy to give up a bumper crop despite the awful conditions they’ve endured.
If you’re lucky enough to own a greenhouse, poly-tunnel, cold frame or even just a cloche there is no reason you can’t carry on enjoying fresh tasty salads throughout the winter months, with repeat sowings keeping you well stocked. Why not try land cress, lettuce, radicchio, corn salad, wild rocket or mustard? You can buy excellent mixed winter salad seeds now too which are always great to try for a bit of variety. Treat your winter salad in a similar way as your summer salad but just be careful when watering, you don’t want pools of water around your plants due to the risk of freezing.
Whichever veg you decide to grow, take a little time and pick the right variety when choosing your seeds; some are much more hardy than others and if you’re growing outside or in a greenhouse/poly-tunnel, don’t forget you can use horticultural fleece on your plants for a little added protection from the elements.
So, there you have it, a few things to keep those green thumbs busy over the autumn and winter months. Just because it’s cold, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on enjoying your garden, so wrap up warm, grab your flask of hot tea, coffee or even hot chocolate and get gardening!
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