What Should Grow In The Winter?

Up until the end of October there is a good range that can be sown to supplement the leeks, parsnips and sprouts that should already be settled in. Except for garlic, onion sets, asparagus and cabbages, I sow in modules in my cold frame or greenhouse and plant out as mini-plants a few weeks later. Alternatively, sow outside and cover with fleece or perforated polythene. And don’t forget pests: slugs and snails are less of a threat now as they start to hibernate, but they can still ruin tender young seedlings.
I always autumn-sow broad beans. As well as having more time than I do in spring, it stops nutrients leaching through otherwise fallow soil, which allows its structure to deteriorate. They are ready a good month earlier than those sown in April, and they don’t get black fly. If the beans are in an exposed position and grow too tall (above a foot ) over winter, they can wave around and split just above ground level, so put in canes or sticks and string if necessary. Good autumn varieties are Aquadulce Claudia (AGM) and Super Aquadulce. Don’t forget, broad bean tops are delicious wilted with butter. If you pick out some tops to cook before the pods are formed you will delay pod production, which can help stagger your crop. Small pods are delicious cooked and eaten whole.
Asparagus varieties are now available for autumn planting, which helps them establish that bit quicker. Thompson & Morgan is offering Ariane, Guelph Millennium, Pacific 2000 and Purple Pacific. Although a common perception is that asparagus beds are hard work, in my experience if you get the bed weed-free, as with other perennial vegetables, they take far less work than annual vegetables. You do wait for two years before you can cut them, but it is a small price to pay for a gourmet extravaganza
For a late spring crop, it’s worth trying sowing seeds now, especially in mild areas. If you sow direct into the ground, plant them one inch deep and relatively closely at about one inch apart, to make up for a higher loss rate.
Plant in groups of three lines all 12in apart to form thick rows, and make each thick row 18in apart. With peas, don’t forget the pea shoots are tasty: just pick off the tips and add to stir fries and salads for that intense, delicious fresh pea flavour. Meteor is a first early variety and overwinters well. To speed up germination, put seeds on a wet kitchen towel on a plate and sow (in modules) when the root starts to develop.
This is the easiest crop to grow. Plant the cloves individually to a depth of 2.5in deep on light soils and a lot less deep on heavy soils, but always a minimum of one inch below the surface. The distance should be about one foot apart each way. If you suffered from rust this year, in addition to rotation try hoeing in sulphate of potash in February/March.
Otherwise, spraying with a sulphur-based compound helps. Solent Wight is a trusty variety (stores well and has large cloves), but this year I am putting in a new variety, Province. It is available from The Garlic Farm (www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk) and has huge cloves.
There are quite a few varieties of onions from sets that can go in now. This is the easiest way to grow onions, and they can be harvested earlier on in the year. Electric is a good red set, Radar a good yellow and Shakespeare is a highly reliable white. Sow some spring onions now: White Lisbon Winter Hardy (from T&M) is a good one. Many garden centres have shallots available for planting now, Jermor is out there already – normally I plant these in December or after Christmas, but I will pop some in and see. Shallots, with their sweet, subtle flavour, are becoming trendier, and they store well.
My cut-and-come again varieties, such as Niche Mixed, were sown a few weeks ago. But you can still sow a really hardy variety, Meraviglia d’Inverno San Martino, and plant it out under fleece or a perforated polythene sheet. I have picked it right through the winter in previous years, and in milder winters left it unprotected once it establishes. Winter Gem is a good new variety from T&M, and can be sown right through the winter till January in a cold frame.
This is a good filler: it’s undemanding, easy to grow and useful for bulking out the salad bowl. It is useful in that it does not need high light levels and tolerates low temperatures, and so can be sown up until the end of October outside; it can be picked until December or into the new year with some fleece or milder weather. It can be a cut and come again or left as a singleton. If you are short of space, you could broadcast some in between your spring cabbage plants. Seeds of Italy (www.seedsofitaly.com) offers Verte de Cambrai and D’Olanda; T&M offers Cavallo.
This is another vegetable that is very popular now. We pick it younger and just wilt the leaves rather than ruin it with overcooking. Great in salads, too. Useful varieties that will tolerate being sown now until the end of October are Riccio d’Asti and Merlo Nero (Seeds of Italy). The big advantage of autumn sowing is that there is no tendency to bolt.
Although not usually known for sowing now, if you choose a variety such as Snow Pea Gigante Svizzero (Seeds of Italy) you can get slow growth (as with all the peas) over winter to produce a crop of smallish, edible pods earlier next year. Sugarsnap peas are a firm favourite of mine: you get far more of that great fresh pea flavour than you do from just using the pea, and they are highly versatile.
If you ring around your local garden centres, you might well find some spring cabbage plants left. Plant 12in apart each way and earth up the soil around their stems after they have got going to help them against the cold. If it gets icy in colder areas, fleece or cloches can help. You can thin early plants for spring greens and leave the rest to heart up. Watch out for pigeons.
Original Article At: Telegraph UK

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