A journalist once asked me “Whats the best time of year to start a garden?, and I said “Anytime!” There is not one food growing season, there are four!”
Let’s take a look at what to plant in your veggie patch in winter. I encourage you to take this leap into year round gardening to bring homegrown vegetables - the best of all food! - to your table everyday. Such a thrill! And for the triumph you feel, when though its cold and wet you went out and got on with it!
Leave Wet, Heavy Soil Alone
If you are on wet, heavy and therefore cold soil your winter garden will be best in pots. Over time the addition of organic matter, gypsum and mulch will transform the glug into the free draining humus heaven you need for year round planting. For now though, the best thing you can do is mulch soggy soils and leave them alone until they dry out again.
Learn Your Place
Understanding your unique growing environment is essential. There is a lot of advice out there and not all of it is going to apply to your patch. The only way you learn your garden’s limits are by mucking in and doing it! This here is what I can plant in winter. Tweak it to suit your place and your palate.
Winter Vegetables to Plant or Sow
- Plant broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage for late spring harvest.
- Plant bok choy or kale for late winter harvest.
- Plant garlic, shallots, spring onions and onions for summer harvest.
- Plant globe artichokes for spring harvest.
- Plant asparagus crowns for future springs (about 3 years before you can harvest, but oh so worth it)
- Direct sow legume greencrops, as heavy feeders like broccoli come to an end. (Now you’re really thinking like a food gardener – preparing your ground for future crops.)
- Direct or tray sow rocket, mesclun, miners lettuce, corn salad, spinach, raddichio, sno-peas, peas and broadbeans for spring/ summer harvest.
- Direct sow parsnip, radish, kohlrabi, swede or turnips.
- Direct sow a mustard greencrop, after greenhouse tomatoes and peppers to cleanse the soil.
Plant Salad Greens Under Cover
Keep fresh leafy salad reens coming on through winter in the greenhouse. If you don’t have a greenhouse, fake up a bit of warmth - be creative! Make a cloche with a sheet of plastic, rig up an old window or car windscreen or plant into pots tucked close to the house on the sunny side. Do whatever you can to warm the air and soil.
Good Things Take Time
It’s important you understand the truth of how long from seedling to harvest. Good things take time. In the matter of a broccoli you’re looking at 3 months, a lettuce 6 weeks, garlic 6 months. Add some frosty cold weather and everything slows, almost grinding to a halt. So when I say planting the winter garden – it’s just that – planting. The food you’re harvesting now was thoughtfully planted in autumn.