Winter can be a bit of a dismal time in the garden as everything shuts down and goes to sleep. But we are strongly of the opinion that this does not have to be the case. With a bit of planning you can have a healthy crop of salad and vegetables ready to pick and enjoy all winter long. After all, what could be more satisfying than enjoying your home-grown sprouts and parsnips as part of your Christmas feast.
To help give you a head start on what to grow and when to sow we have broken down our recommendations into:
- Crops you can sow now (Oct/Nov) to enjoy over autumn and winter
- Crops you can sow in the summer that will see you through colder season
- Crops you can sow now (Oct/Nov) that will give you a veg crop in early spring
That way you can maximise every opportunity you’ve got to keep growing over winter.
First up are the salad leaves. These are a great place to start for beginners. Known as cut and come again crops, given a bit of TLC you can be harvesting salad leaves well into winter.
These can be sown directly into a prepared veg patch, but as the weather starts to get colder, they may struggle to germinate. To give them a good start, we suggest germinating these seeds indoors (either on a warm windowsill or in a greenhouse) before transplanting stronger seedlings to the veg bed.
Once planted keep them warm with a covering of fleece or a cloche to protect them over winter.
Salad leaves that are perfect for sowing now include:
- Pak Choi
- Perpetual spinach
- Winter purslane
- Kale (pick them small as baby leaves)
Salad crops can also be sown and grown indoors throughout the winter. These include cress and sprouting seeds such as mung beans and alfalfa. You can also try sprouting adzuki, chives, lentils, mustard, peas, and radish. Not only is this a super healthy crop but it can add fantastic fresh flavours to winter salads.
Sow in advance for autumn/winter crops
If you’ve caught the growing bug and want to plan ahead for next year, there are crops you can start in the spring and summer that will give you a plentiful harvest over autumn and winter.
These hardy veg are the stalwart of a winter veg garden and include:
You can either grow from seed or, if you’re pushed for space or impatient to get growing, buy vegetable plugs. Once established these crops are happy waiting in the ground until you need them.
Picking tip: It is traditional not to pick certain crops until after the first frost. Starchy vegetables such as parsnips, celeriac and carrots taste even better after receiving a cold shock to the system. But why is this? To prevent damage from the cold, these vegetables turn the starches in their cells into sucrose (sugar) which acts like an ‘anti-freeze’. This additional hit of sugar results in a sweeter tasting vegetable. This principle doesn’t just apply to root veg. Kale and Brussel sprouts also benefit from this cold shock treatment.
Sow now for crops next spring
As we come out of a long dark winter, there is nothing more rewarding then enjoying the fresh spring crops that you started during autumn. So now is the time of year to think about what you’d like to be enjoying come spring.
Some of our favourite spring vegetable crops include:
- Broad beans
- Onions and shallots
- Spring onions
Where to buy your seeds
If you are keen to get growing, you can either head to your local garden centre to see what they’ve got in stock. Or look online at seed suppliers such as Suttons or Thompson and Morgan who both have a wide range to choose from. We found Suttons filter system helpful in finding ideas for what to plant and when. Browsing their range and planning next year’s sowing calendar is a great way to spend a wet autumn afternoon.
Need a hand getting started?
Building a veg bed and growing seeds is a garden project that is easily tackled, and indeed is something that many of us have done this summer during lockdown.
But if you’re not sure where to start or don’t have the time to get the groundwork done yourself, then we can help. At Thames Valley Landscapes we have oodles of experience in landscaping outdoor spaces to include areas that are as productive as they are beautiful.
We recently worked with Oakley Court to create a kitchen garden to supply the chefs with produce all year round.
As well as working with homeowners who have wanted to integrate a dedicated area to growing veg and fruit within their garden designs.
Please feel free to get in touch with details of your garden project. We’d love to hear your plans.
Call: 01628 629720