After months of often cold, miserable weather, things are looking up. Spring is here, shortly to be followed by Summer. Of course, no one wants to talk about Winter!
So apologies for bringing up the subject. But it’s actually very important this time of year.
If you’re trying to save money from growing veg, are attempting to be as self sufficient as possible or just like fresh veg available all year, ensuring a steady stream of harvests through Winter is vital.
That’s why I always try to find some time to plan the Winter crops properly, as well as the more glamorous but shorter lived Summer favourites.
The next few weeks are the perfect time to sow those hardy, reliable winter veg so that they provide harvests come the colder months. Here are 8 easy to grow crops that will keep you in food during those dark days of January and February
Leeks are a tremendous winter veg to grow. They’re easy to plant out, and will happily sit in the ground until you need them.
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. In fact, I often keep leftover seedlings and plant them late for this very reason.
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 dream.
Half a dozen plants will give you the chance to alternate harvesting too, ensuring each one gets a rest to maximise yield.
Cavolo Nero is a relatively recent discovery for me, but I wouldn’t be without it now. A type of kale, this leafy green is also a cut and come again variety, but tastes slightly sweeter than other brassicas.
Grow and treat Cavolo Nero the same way as kale, and you’ll reap harvests from the plants all Winter.
Like kale, the taste of Cavolo Nero benefits from a good frost.
Perpetual Spinach and Chard
More cut and come again goodness, this time from these lovely chards. Perpetual spinach and chard are dead easy to grow. 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.
And by jove, they’re hardy.
There are two tricky things to consider with parsnips: germination and soil.
‘Snips can be tricky to germinate, and fresh seeds are essential every year. I’ve found that sowing in modules, using more seeds than you need, is the best way of boosting germination chances. Just pull out the extra seedlings if more than one comes through.
Soil needs to be stone free as your parsnips will suffer from stunted growth or ‘split’. Growing in containers can help this as you get to choose the soil.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Last year, I tried the excellently named Rudolph, an extra early PSB variety which we started harvesting in January. Not only did the PSB add a much needed splash of colour to the plot, it made a welcome addition to the kales, greens and chards of Winter.
PSB is another cut and come again vegetable, so remember to keep harvesting!
What Winter would be complete without the good old Brussel Sprout. It’s only taken me 30 years, but my long running battle with mum is over and I’m now a sprout convertee.
I love harvesting the sprouts when they are smaller than you’d find in the shops, as they are so much sweeter.
Sow some late season varieties such as Trafalgar and Revenge, and you could be picking sprouts into March.
Mibuna and Mizuna
Thanks to these hardy and easy to grow oriental greens, the allotmenteerist can have fresh salad all year round, especially if you sow a batch towards the end of Summer.
In previous years, the only thing that has killed my mibuna and mizuna has been heavy snowfall, but since getting a greenhouse, the peppery leaves have enjoyed protection all, so if you’ve got cover I’d definitely recommend a sowing inside too.