Well, after a rainy start, what a lovely Spring day that turned out to be.
Lapping up the sunshine, it seemed odd to be thinking of winter, but now is the time to be sowing seeds for plants that will be feeding you once the warm days of Summer have passed.
Summer veg is bountiful and luxurious, but one thing I’ve learned is that a steady stream of Winter veg is just as important.
Here are nine easy to grow crops that will keep you in food during those dark days of January and February, whether they’re in the ground, shed, or freezer. And they can all be sown right about now.
What’s more, the small ones often put on quite a big growth spurt during Spring, giving you bonus leeks when you least expected them.
Brussels needn’t be just for Christmas. Sow some late-season varieties such as Trafalgar and Revenge, and you could be picking sprouts into March.
Curly Kale is one of my favourite vegetables to grow. It’s a real Mr. Dependable, surviving all manner of weather to provide regular harvests through winter.
Being a cut and come again plant, the kale shoots will keep growing to replace what you pick, making kale a thrifty gardener’s favourite.
Half a dozen plants will give you the chance to alternate harvesting too, ensuring each one gets a rest to maximise yield.
Like leeks, parsnips will overwinter happily in the ground until you’re ready to harvest them. They’ll stay dormant but sweeten with frosts.
Growing in stony soil can be tricky, so try containers as an alternative.
Purple Sprouting Brocolli
Extra early varieties of PSB are now readily available from seed merchants. Try Rudolph for January pickings. Like Kale, a cut and come again variety and worth its weight in gold during the Hungry Gap.
Perpetual Spinach and Chard
More cut and come again goodness, this time from these lovely leafy chards. Perpetual spinach and chard are dead easy to grow and incredibly hardy. They’re also very useful in the kitchen, whether you’re folding them into curries and quiches or simply cooking the leaves as a side dish.
The king of the keepers! Harvest squashes in Autumn, store them in a cool, dark place and they’ll still be perfect to dine on months later.
Crown Prince have been the storing champions for me in the past, but plain old butternuts have also been tremendous.
I know, I know, freezing is cheating a bit, but we’ve all got freezers…
French beans freeze really well, and I sow a late crop every year purely for this purpose. They’re incredibly prolific and even a short row will provide plenty of beans for the freezer.
Maincrop potato varieties, such as Maris Piper, will store for several months in the right conditions. I keep mine in a hessian sack in the garden shed, and last year’s crops are still in a tip-top state even now.
Excluding light is critical, as light causes the potatoes to sprout, and always dry off the crop for a couple of days before storing. Check regularly for damaged potatoes.