Monday, 19 September 2011

Winter Veg

I mentioned on twitter that I am embarking on my planting for winter and received a fair number of interested tweets back along the lines of ‘what can I grow?’ and ‘will it really grow in winter?’ Naturally I felt a blog post was in order. Growing in winter is great in many respects. Your beds will otherwise look very dull indeed and my dreaded adversary, the slug, is less prevalent. You also need to water less, obviously, as it’s more rainy.

To keep your beautiful babies warm when the cold weather comes you can use horticultural fleece which is very cheap and if you buy a few meters of it you can cut it to the size of your plant pots of beds. On my tubs I secure it down with clothes pegs on frosty nights and sleep well knowing my plants are well cared for. If I become really obsessive and it is very cold I may bring some pots of plants inside at night. This is the massive advantage of container growing. In the summer you can relocate them to another part of the garden if they are looking a bit sad and perhaps need a touch more sun. In the winter you can move them to warmer spots and even take your winter lettuces inside. I always bring my Mediterranean herbs like marjoram and oregano in for the winter and the basil if it has survived that long (it rarely has!)

So what can you grow in winter? This is my first season of going all out on my winter growing with most of my containers full and I am growing a range of winter lettuces which I will cut small for salads. A good tip for making salads appetizing in colder weather is using a hot dressing. Sounds odd, tastes amazing! Try frying up a shallot in some olive oil and adding a tablespoon full of cider vinegar. This over Mizuna, an excellent winter salad leaf that tastes a bit like rocket, is amazing. I am also growing salad onions, kale, giant red mustards, frill mustards, spinach, corn salad, broad beans and some chilli peppers inside on my window sill. As in the summer I got all my plants as babies from Rocket Gardens.

It is very heartening to be planting in autumn when you can feel the winter drawing in. I had the perfect afternoon yesterday digging around in my garden with a robin bobbing about beside me thinking it was his lucky day as I unearthed lots of worms. I have finally got to the exciting (perhaps I use that word too liberally!) place where my containers are like living ecosystems with worms in them and good healthy soil. This is what you want! If it makes you feel better I achieve this by doing very little at all and letting my garden be a bit wild (much to my neighbours displeasure!) but I like it to be a place where both my gardening efforts and nature (except slugs!!) thrives.

Enjoy your garden this winter!

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