The winter isn’t most people’s favourite time for gardening. It isn’t most plants favourite time either. Growing flowers and mowing the lawn are both out of the question. However there are plenty of types of plant that love the winter, and lots of them are great for the Christmas dinner table.
Whether you grow them yourself or make use of raised beds surrounded by heaped up compost to keep them safe from worst excesses of the winter weather by keeping their roots warm. Herbs are particularly good for growing in the winter. Thyme, coriander, parsley, salad burnet and chervil can all grow lovely and healthy at this time of year, as can Brussels sprouts, cabbages and leeks, regardless of the frost and the sparse sunlight.
Here are some of our other favourite winter vegetables.
Broad beans are great plants for growing in the autumn. Not only do you get delicious broad beans at the end of it, and it prevents the soil from leaching the vital nutrients you’ll be needing later in the year. The dearth of insects in the winter means that your beans are also less likely to suffer from black fly.
There are plenty of varieties of asparagus ideally suited to planting in the autumn, when they will be able to set down roots just a little bit more quickly than they do at other times of the year. A lot of people think that asparagus is really hard work, but the truth is, if you keep the beds weed free they’re actually much less work than most annual plants. You’ll have to wait two years before you can cut them, but it’s worth it for the taste explosion.
One of the easiest crops you’ll ever grow. Plant the garlic bulbs 2.5 inches into light soil (or at a shallower depth in heavier soils, but at least an inch deep) and about one foot apart. They grow easily and any chef knows garlic has a million and one uses.
Spinach is seeing a bit of an upsurge in popularity at the moment. The secret to this winter crop is to pick it young and let the leaves wilt a little rather than overcooking, but it’s also a great salad crop. You can grow Riccio d’Asti and Merlo Nero (Seeds of Italy) through to the end of October most years, and later during mild years like this.
Onions, Spring Onions and Shallots
Onions are great for all kinds of winter dishes, and there are almost limitless varieties available. Plant them now and they’ll be ready for harvesting early in the year. Sowing spring onions like White Lisbon Winter Hardy is a good idea. You can also get shallots from most garden centres right now, varieties such as Jermor are good for planting in December or after Christmas.
They taste fantastic, and they store well, so it’s a great way to stock up the winter larder.
Start planting now, and you should be abe to have some of these vegetables ready in time for your Christmas dinner!
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Mark Bartram is the managing director of Lawnmowers Direct, and a keen gardener with it.