As the days get shorter and colder, it’s always tempting to shut our gardens up and leave them lying dormant until spring comes around again. Whilst our gardens certainly do slow down over the winter months, there’s still growing potential especially vegetables over the colder seasons. The key is to begin planting up your vegetable patch in autumn, so you can start to reap the rewards of your harvest from early spring onwards.
Probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow is the humble onion. Over winter they are very self-sufficient and will need very little tending to. The trade-off for this is that their growing season is long, so you won’t see them again after planting until summer, but they’re a great way of making good use of the winter period. Another easy grow is garlic, but again you’ll have to wait until summer to enjoy the fruits of your labour!
If you’re after a quicker win and want to enjoy the fruits of your labour in the depths of winter and into early spring, then spinach should be your go-to crop. Sowing in early autumn (now!) will keep you well fed throughout winter and into summer if you regularly harvest it. Pak Choi can also be harvested throughout winter and is a great source of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy all year round! In fact, if you get stuck in and sow a range of leaves such as Lambs Lettuce and Land Cress you can cling to your memories of summer with delicious winter salads.
If you are looking to establish a vegetable patch that you can raid come spring, then broad beans can be sowed in autumn and harvested come spring. Choose hardy varieties such as Pea ‘Meteor’ or Pea ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ that are normally ready for harvesting at least 3-4 weeks earlier than other varieties. Yum!
For those of us looking for a long-term investment, then consider planting an asparagus bed. Whilst they do take a few years to become established, once they are each asparagus crown has the potential to produce up to twenty-five spears per year for the same number of years! This isn’t for the impatient or easily bored, though. They take 2 years of growing before they are ready to be harvested, but once established you can be sure to be enjoying fresh, crunchy asparagus spears for years to come.
If you’re not feeling vegetables but would still like to enjoy an interest in your garden over winter, there are still several plants that can be grown and admired over winter. Winter bedding plants are perhaps the easiest way to do this as they can be placed in either flower beds, raised borders or in containers to add a splash of colour to your winter garden.
Pansies are a versatile plant and flower for much longer than most winter flowering bedding plants. They come in a wide range of colours including orange, yellow, white, purple, blue and many more! For the cottage garden, Primrose are a great option as they can come in a range of colours and sizes. These beauties will flower from mid-winter onwards and will add a splash of colour to your garden that will be the envy of your neighbours. You needn’t resign yourself to a dull garden this winter, take some time to plant in the autumn and enjoy the results of your hard work all the way through winter and beyond!
JASON IS A PROFESSIONAL GARDENER AND LANDSCAPER, AND OWNER OF JHPS-GARDENS LTD.
HE REGULARLY WRITES A PIECE FOR OUR WEBSITE, PLUS THE SENTINEL NEWSPAPER,
AND IS A GO TO EXPERT ON BBC RADIO STOKE’S GARDENING PROGRAMME.