Best vegetables to grow in winter

11 October 2018

Don’t worry if you haven’t yet got your winter garden prepared, there are lots of tasty vegetables to be grown over winter that can still be sown this autumn.

It goes without saying that it’s best to grow organic, which means no pesticides, as this has the most benefits to nature. Organic farming is vital for the protection of our wildlife - intensive methods have been identified as the main culprits in the decline of Britain’s wildlife species.

So now that you know what not to do, here are a few of the best veggies to grow this winter.

Garlic

Garlic is probably the easiest winter vegetable to grow, and there are loads of varieties to choose from. They have a long growing season and won’t be ready to harvest until next summer, but it’s worth the wait.

If you’re a fan of baked garlic try planting the ‘Chesnok Red’, it has a lovely creamy texture and is great for making garlic bread. Buy bulbs from a garden centre as those from the supermarket may carry disease and not be suited to the British climate.

Plant individual cloves so the tips are 2.5cm (1 inch) below the soil surface, and give them room to grow. You can harvest the bulbs once the leaves have turned yellow. Carefully lift them with a fork and lay out the bulbs to dry in an airy place. They can be stored in dry place at 5-10oC (41-50F) until you're ready to use them.

Onions

They’re easy to grow from baby onions, which are called sets, and will virtually look after themselves over winter. Like garlic, they too have a long growing season and will be ready in the summer.

The ‘First Early’ variety is a reliable yellow skinned onion or for a vibrant red onion try the ‘Electric’. A top tip is to plant them with mint to confuse and deter onion fly.

Plant your sets about 2cm (1in) deep so that just the tip of each set pokes proud of ground level, and give them enough room to grow.

You can harvest your onions once the foliage starts to turn yellow and topple over. Lift the bulbs before the foliage completely dies down, and place on a rack in full sun outdoors or a well ventilated greenhouse for about two weeks to ripen. 

Broad beans

For something that’ll be ready in time for spring, get some broad beans in the ground. A good autumn variety is ‘Super Aquadulce’ and ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is one of the best as it establishes quickly.

When your plants are well grown, if you pick out some tops to cook before the pods are formed, you’ll delay pod production, which can help stagger your crop. The tops are delicious wilted with some vegan butter.

In open ground, sow seeds in single rows around 45cm (18in) apart, or in double rows 23cm (9in) apart (leaving 60cm (2 ft) between each double row). In raised beds where space is not needed to walk between rows for picking, all rows can be spaced 23cm (9in) apart.

Harvest the pods once the beans have begun to visibly swell inside and do it in stages, starting with the lowest pod first.

Peas

Again, these will be ready by spring if you get them going in autumn. The ‘Meteor’ and ‘Keveldon Wonder’ are particularly hardy, and by planting them soon you’ll be harvesting them three or four weeks earlier than growers who have planted theirs in spring.

Make a flat bottomed trench and sow the seeds evenly spaced, cover them with soil, then lightly firm. You’ll need to provide some support for the plants to scramble up, and one of the easiest ways to do this is adding trellis, bamboo canes and netting.

After flowering, the plants need sufficient water for the pods to swell properly. Pods are ready to harvest when they are well filled and you’ll need to pick them regularly or the plants stop producing flowers and pods.

Asparagus

It’s long been considered the ultimate gourmet vegetable but it requires significant patience - you have to wait two years before you can enjoy the delicious taste and texture. As a perennial vegetable, they’ll need a permanent place in the garden and it’s essential that you make sure the soil is completely weed free.

Asparagus enjoys really good drainage, so it’s best planted in trenches around 20cm (10in) deep by 30cm (12in) wide. Fill the bottom of each trench with well-rotted manure or garden compost, to help feed the plants in future years. The excavated soil can then be mounded up on top of the manure to form a ridge along the length of the trench.

Most varieties are available as bareroot crowns, which you place on top of the ridge with their roots draped over the edges. Asparagus plants will need plenty of space in the coming years, so lay them out at a distance of 45cm (18in) apart. Cover the crowns with a good layer of soil and then firm them into position before watering well to settle the soil.

Resist the temptation to harvest the spears during their first season. Instead, allow the plants to develop foliage as this will help to feed the plant and encourage stronger, healthier growth next year.

A limited crop of spears may be harvested in the second year during April and May when they reach 15cm (6in) tall. Cut spears individually at about 2cm below ground level and by the third year, the crop can be fully harvested. It may seem a long time to wait but once established, asparagus plants will produce tender, tasty spears for up to 20 years!

Most winter veg plants are hardy and cope well with the cold weather. But if you think that there’s a hard frost on the way, you can always throw over some garden fleece to provide a little extra protection. By spring and early summer you’ll be enjoying the fruits, or in this case veg, of your labour.

 

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