Us gardeners are a resilient bunch. We boldly face the changing weathers; we shrug off the plants that never took; we learn the lessons from battling pest infestations.
We take note, we grow wiser and we get ready to plant once more.
We even courageously embrace the sadness as summer slips away and the darkening days creep in. We get busily planning and planting, ready for the next cycle of homegrown food in our winter gardens.
And then comes a peculiar plight that affects many a gardener.
The impatience of the winter garden-to-table gap.
It can plague even the most accepting of us growers with a frustrating impatience, while we wait and wait for our next harvest. Winter veg can admittedly take a while to grow – but so can some summer crops. Perhaps it’s the lack of sunshine fraying our mood, or the challenge of adjusting from summer growing to winter ‘slowing’.
Over my 30+ years of gardening, I have found that there is a way to transition from summer to winter without enduring the irksome winter garden-to-table gap.
It can be tricky to plan, further complicated by the weather and a lack of space in the garden, so here are my top tips for managing this like a pro!
- The key is in the variety you choose to grow, paying particular attention to the timespan from sowing to harvest. Choose at least some veg that are quick to grow and produce like asian greens, bok choi, pak choi, rocket, miners lettuce and coriander. This helps fill the gap of garden-to-table while the others are maturing.
- Commit to growing beyond your comfort zone this winter and try growing something new! Do you like casseroles or stews? If so, why not plant swedes and turnips, which are easy veg to grow. Florence fennel is easy too and so delicious in a salad or lightly sauteed. Peas make another good option, which will produce over autumn-winter if you live in warmer parts of the country.
- As ever, you will need to choose depending on your climate. Think a little creatively into the future gaps you may have. For example, if you are in a subtropical area, a winter starting crop of potatoes will be delicious by spring to go with fresh picked peas.
- It is important we grow crops that will keep in our pantry and can feed us throughout the year, as well as crops that keep coming up year after year. Shallots and garlic are pretty easy to grow and give you a crop at the end of the season that you can eat over the next 9 months. If your family is small, shallots might be just the ticket instead of onions. One shallot plant will give you between 4-6 in return and they will keep for 9 months if stored correctly. The same applies to garlic.
- Aside from vegetables, it is vital to grow flowers, providing food for the insects and bees over the winter months too. Pansies, poppies and calendula add that extra pop of colour to your green garden, as well as a food source for insects/ bees.
The key is to only grow what you will eat, otherwise it is a waste. Whatever you choose to grow, I urge you to plant something at least and enjoy fresh food over winter. Eat well, eat in season and give thanks to the garden for its abundance!