How to grow a winter garden that will nourish you all season long
Many gardeners sadly assume that a winter garden is boring and choose to focus on summer growing only. This is such a shame to me – not only is a winter garden easier to grow in as you have far fewer pests and disease to manage, but the tasty harvest is reward enough! This month, I’ve decided to focus on my favourite winter veg to grow and my top tips for mastering these crops.
There’s so much to love about the brassica family. Packed with nutrients,this powerhouse family includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
In order to offer up those dense nutrients on your plate, the brassica family subsequently like rich soil, so I recommend that youenhance it with well rotten manure or your previous season’s compost. Your brassicas will love you for it, and the nutrients you put in will come back to you when you harvest. Remember, if nutrients aren’t in your soil, then they can’t be in your food!
A great addition for brassicas to enrich their nutrients is crushed up egg shells scattered around them, as this adds calcium into the soil which they adore!
I plant brassicas in April and May which gives them a good start before slugs and snails come out of summer hibernation. If these critters do become a problem, I usually break the lower leaves off and put them around the base of the plant. Doing so has proven to me that the snails and slugs will eat what is in front of them, rather than climb the plant. This method has successfully saved my plants, whilst the slugs and snails have also been allowed their fill! I also found that 10pm in the evening is a good time to go out and catch the blighters!
Peas and Broad beans are good winter/spring staples and, in warmer climates, will produce by July/August if sown in April. These are also nitrogen-fixing legumes that will help to replenish your soil ahead of next season’s growing – a wonderful bonus!
Carrots and beetroot
Personally, I sow two lots of carrots and beetroot – one in April and the other in May. After May, the growing season slows down for the months of June and early July as we approach the shortest day of the year.
I have found that most things planted in June will just sit in the garden doing nothing until the end of July when we have more daylight hours, so my top tip here is to get your winter veg in the ground before June. Then you can sit back and rest as the nights draw in.
When you sow your carrots, make sure you direct sow them into previous season’s fertiliser (and not this season’s) as too much nitrogen will cause them to fork.
Direct sow beetroot too, as it grows much better this way. It’s a fabulous companion with all plants, so you can pick wherever you like to plant them amongst your garden and they like a rich, new composted soil.
I also sow coriander, rocket, arugula and winter salads at this time of year – this gives me a good harvest through winter until early summer before the heat hits and these plants go to seed.
Remember coriander doesn’t like too much sun, so choose a spot that is half-sun and half-shade which avoids the heat of the day. Just scatter your seeds into the ground and they will pop up, as transplanting coriander can cause root damage and stunt growth.
Arugula likes to be inter-planted with anything, and it’s a great, spicy green for winter.
So what do you like to grow at winter?
If you haven’t given a winter garden a try before, make this season your first! And if you’d like support and are keen to grow your knowledge as a gardener, come discover what the Grow Inspired Academy is all about. We’re still welcoming members right now, but just for a few more days!
Happy gardening and Grow Inspired!