Winter Growing

Winter Veg and Salads

Footprints in the snow at the plot

It’s only May and I need to start thinking and planning on what I want to grow and eat for winter, sounds ridiculous to be thinking of winter when we’ve just had one of the hottest and driest April’s on record, but if I don’t start sowing now I’ll miss my
proverbial boat.

The first couple of years on my allotment saw me concentrating on spring and summer veg with little going on in autumn or winter other than a few Leeks and some Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Last year changed – partly because of my curiosity as to what I could grow well in the depths of winter, how I could push the seasons a bit – i.e. keeping salads going through autumn, conversations I had with fellow gardeners, and I guess time and energy to plan ahead. The thought of eating fresh veggies and salads in winter was the real driver though – that and the thought of eating shop bought salads, read largely tasteless, made me shudder, so I got my act together.

I can’t say I was wholly successful (but what gardener can?), many things keeled over, or went into hibernation/shut-down, some things were nibbled by slugs and the like, plus some veg like the radicchio rotted from the insides, but on reflection my 1st real attempt at growing food for the winter table was a successful, we had some meals from home grown veg. But I know I can improve on it.

The major problem, so I’ve discovered is that the light levels in this part of the Northern hemisphere are miserable in terms of wanting to grow veg over winter – the sun simply doesn’t get out for long enough or get high enough. Added to that, a classic British winter is not just cold but damp and wet. I’ve found over the years that I’ve lost more to the damp and wet in the garden than to the cold. The one positive I have on my side is being on the south coast, which means the frosts aren’t as severe as they would be 10 miles inland. We do get frosts, but they don’t tend to be heavy or go on for long. On the negatives, living on the coast means dealing with strong winds and gales, so means that whatever protection I try to give my plants it needs to be firmly in place, otherwise after a storm the structure will be found several plots away.

What I have to try and remember is that last winter was exceptional – cold in December and lots of snow, we didn’t have the atypical days of cool and wet, so maybe that is why my winter veg survived so well, and without much protection. Only time will tell.

Eating the winter sown salads and sowing the summer salads makes me realise that I crave fresh, raw, crunchy salads. Letting the sowing commence!

Further reading -

Winter Grow List for 2011

  • Broccoli ~ Nine Star Perennial (Thompson & Morgan). I’m looking forward to trying this as I’ve read loads of positive reviews. ‘A perennial white sprouting broccoli with the ability to produce bumper crops year after year on the same plant. The variable sized, creamy heads make a great spring vegetable.’ So again not a true winter veg, but one
    that will be in the ground and ready in the south early spring
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli ~ Sown in April and picked the following March. ‘Early Purple’ (Real Seeds). tried and
    tested over the last few years and has survived all that winter can throw at it. Oh, and it tastes great and crops for ages. But do netting against Pigeons, grow to approx 4 to 5ft high
  • Brussel Sprouts ~
  • Falstaff (from a US swapper), Park Seeds describe it as ‘Keeps its Purple Color Even After Cooking! – which I found to
    be fairly true last year. “Slow-growing but utterly delicious. 125 days. There has never been a more beautiful brussels sprout than this deep purplish-redvariety, and we would recommend it even if it weren’t also one of the most flavourful.
    But the fact is that these rosy sprouts are simply delicious, with a mild, nut-like flavour that appeals more to children than other brussels sprout varieties may. Slow to mature, this plant intensifies its lovely color if exposed to a bit of frost, so can be left quite late in the season without damage. And when you cook the sprouts, they keep their rich purple tones! What a pleasing and delicious sprout for the entire family! ‘
  • Evesham Special (seed swap & grown in Lewes) ‘A favourite old variety which produces good, reliable early crops. The large tasty sprouts are packed onto medium-sized plants, which makes them ideal for exposed locations.’ I’m hoping this does well as the allotments are pretty exposed to winter storms
  • Cabbage ~
  • Delaway Cabbage (Seed Swap) ‘ This is Irish Seed Savers listing who have it in their catalogue “An Irish heirloom variety, saved for generations by the Hughes family in Co. Mayo. Exceptionally hardy cut ‘n come again cabbage. Tall vigorous plant with large tender leaves and purple stems.’
  • Wintergreen (Kings Seeds) sow July to aug for picking late winter early spring
  • January King (Johnsons) ‘Purple tinged winter hardy variety with good flavour’. Sow April to June for harvesting November to March
  • Savoy ‘Tarvpy’ (kings Seeds) sow May to early June for harvesting late Autumn and early Winter. A classic Savoy, which I need to pick early as it can be prone to bolting
  • Cauliflower ~ Purple - stood well over winter with minimal frost damage. Kept it’s purple colour when cooked and generally a good cauliflower flavour
  • Carrots ~ I grow most of my carrots in tubs and crates as my clay soil is too heavy and they tend to fork. I’m hoping to be able to keep some carrots alive and well into early winter by giving them a bit of fleece for frost protection I’m going to try Autumn King and Nantes Frubund (Thompson & Morgan), a freebie, so nothing to lose
  • Chard ~ Swiss Chard – a classic and a must have in the kitchen garden. Lovely added to pasta or chopped finely in an omelette, or when the leaves are small in a green salad
  • Kale~ Nero Di Toscana (Real Seeds) ‘ Non heading traditional Kale from Italy. A very useful plant. As well as cooked baby leaves and shoots are particularly nice raw in salads’.
  • Ragged Jack (seed swap)
  • Vates Blue Curled (HSL) ‘This dwarf (30-40cm), non heading variety produces finely curled, blue-green leaves is very hardy, and particularly tender to eat following a light frost. Can be eaten as a cut and come again, or the whole plant can be uprooted. The extent of the blue colouration varies but it does look great in an ornamental border as well as being a valuable food crop. Sown in early March and transplanted in mid-April, you can begin harvesting delicate frilly leaves in late May. Sow again in late June or early July for a fall crop. Kale likes to be transplanted–even the summer sowing–and it wastes less garden space to do so. ‘
  • Leeks~
  • Musselborough – sow March to April. ‘Most popular variety/strong growing habit • Very winter hardy, thick stems • Ready from December onwards ‘.  Abit of a stalwart for winte rveg.
  • Bleu de Solaise – ‘ an excellent variety of winter leek with dark green bluish tinted leaves and a thick short shaft’.
  • Oriental Leaves~ I’ve had some successes and failures with these, I find the late plantings more successful than spring sowings. I find I have to net them against White Fly and Cabbage White Butterflies otherwise I’m eating something that has more holes in it than a string vest. Oh, and it’s always a bit of a battle of attrition with the slugs
  • Pak Choi ~
  •  Red (Suffolk Herbs) ‘red tinged leaves as the plant matures. Excellent flavour’ sow May to Sept. I looked on in envy last year as another plotholder had this variety – looked stunning, hope it tastes as good as it looks. And I’m also hoping it is winter hardy
  • Yuushou F1 (Johnsons). ‘Very long season and slow to bolt, thick tender stems’
  • White Celery Mustard (Kings Seeds) ‘Soup Spoon Type’
  • Mizuna ~ Kyoto (Johnsons) ‘very easy to grow oriental leaf with deeply cut glossy leaves and a mild spicy tang. Can be picked young for salads or mature for stir frys’. Sow March to August
  • ChopSuey Greens ~ Garland Chrysanthemum Shungiku (Kings Seed & seed swaps). Sow by broad-casting in small blocks, harvest when about 10cm high and cook like spinach. Sow spring and late summer. These stood well in winter and I was bale too eat some in Jan / Feb
    Chinese Celery ~ Kintsai (Kings Seeds) ‘Leaves and stalks are vivid green and have a distinctive flavour and aroma. Sow anytime, fast to mature, about 2 months from sowing.’ I hope to do better with these this year, as they were well and truly munched by slugs last year.
  • Mustard Oriental ~ Ruby Streaks (Johnsons) ‘with attractive deeply divided, darkly coloured leaves which become hotter as they mature’. Sow april to August
  • Choy Sum ~
  • Purple Flowering (Kings Seeds) ‘In warm areas may be sown in Autumn’. Another veg that was munched by slugs
  • Hon Tsai Tai (Nickys Seeds). ‘ Best sown mid to late summer into early autumn. Can be sown autumn, transplanted into polytunnels or greenhouses for a winter harvest’
  • Chinese Cabbage ~ Wong Bok (Kings Seeds) ‘Barrel shaped heads’ Sow July to August. Again this is in my ‘could do better ;ist’, largely down to the appetite of slugs. Is there a Chinese type cabbage that slugs don’t like?
  •  Indian Mustard ~ Amsoi (Kings Seeds) Sow all year round. Quick to bolt of it is too dry and hot, so I tend to sow this
    late summer or very early spring onwards
  • Parsnips ~
  • Tender & True (Seed Swap) ‘with long, smooth skinned roots’
  • Arrow (Kew). ‘Bayonet shaped roots, virtually coreless and tender and sweet.’
  • Radish ~
  •  Black Round Spanish (Pennard Plants). ”Gros Noir d’Hiver’ , Ancient Spanish radish dates in Europe to 1548 & common garden variety in England & France in the early 19th century. Fine round-rooted orb, with deep, near-black skin & snowy-white flesh with a smooth, fairly hot pungent flavour, good raw or cooked. Excellent storability,
    keeping right through the winter. ‘  Personally I love them as an appetiser or thinly sliced on a piece of bread and butter with a tiny sprinkling of salt. Yum! I was still eating these in February in stor-frys
  • Hilds Blauer Herbst Und Winter (seed swap). ‘An exceptionally flamboyant and vividly coloured radish with crisp, firm flesh and long tapering roots that store well once lifted, lasting into winter. Perfect for colourful salads it is also used as an appetiser and is often served as an accompaniment to beer in Germany’. I was happy to eat it with or without the
    beer
  • Mooli – Mino Early (Johnsons). Superb, grown in tubs, and produces lovely long roots with a mild radish flavour. Good raw as a side dish / salad or cooked Indian style. Still eating these in Jan/Feb
  • Salads – various Salad mixes / Mesculin, like Salad Mix – Aunties Cold Snap Mix (Thomas Etty)– sown throughout winter into early Spring (Thomas Etty), “a good sturdy, hearty winter leafy salad
  • Radicchio –
  • Di Treviso Black (Seeds of Italy) sown July to August for picking December onwards, “An Italian favourite and the first Italian vegetable to be issued with DOP status like champagne. A rare special selection Radicchio of Treviso called ‘Awake or Alive’ because of it’s upright leaves which are also very dark red, hence the name”. An absolute classic, and with a touch of frost to it, it looses some of the bitter strength. Lovely cooked in risotto or grilled.
  • Grumolo Rossa (Seeds of Italy) ‘radicchio of Verona with beautiful rosette shaped heads which add colour to your salad bowl. Sow from May-Sep and harvest from Oct-Mar.’
  • Pall Rosso Precoce (Mr Fothergills). Classic Italian salad. I found this variety stood fairly well, but some plants rotted from the centre. Lovely round deep red variety
  • Lettuce ~
  • Valdor (Nickys Seeds) Winter Butterhead lettuce sown late August to mid November and late January onwards.
    Needs some protection. I found this to be a star of a lettuce to overwinter. Gentle buttery flavour, lovely bright green heads, and can get to a good size.
  • Merveille Des Quatre Saisons (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds), “ an old world crop that requires cooler temps to
    grow really well. Sow in spring and autumn
  • Rossa Di Trento (Seeds of Italy)’ A lettuce from the alpine city of Trento. Large green lettuce with red outer leaves.’ Sow Mar-mid Sep and harvest till mid Nov. New to me this year
  • Romana Bionda Delgi Ortolani – “These seeds produce mid/early, large, upright headed lettuce. Consistent,
    blond coloured leaves with crunchy rib. Used especially in Caesar salad. Sow from February to August. Harvest from May to November.” New to me this year
  • Arctic King (seed swap)
  • Bronze Arrow (HSL). ‘A beautiful, productive and very useful lettuce. This California heirloom is popular in the USA but almost unknown here. Drought and cold hardy, making it ideal when autumn-sown, for overwintering. It survived frost and snowfall at Ryton. Also, less popular with slugs. A large, non-hearting lettuce; the attractive, arrowhead-shaped leaves have a distinctive bronze tinge and mild flavour.’ New to me this year
  • Brune d’Hiver (Baker Creek). ‘Compact, hardy, French butterhead-type lettuce that was introduced in 1855. Crunchy green leaves are blushed reddish-brown colour. Plants require little space when growing and are perfect for fall plantings’. A must grow for me, picked the last one at the end of November (no protection). Memo to self, grow more of these as they are beautifully coloured and very crisp tasting
  • Brown Goldring (HSL / Swap). ‘Cos Lettuce. Produces crisp heads in the summer and will successfully overwinter with minimal protection’. new to me this year
  • Petite Rouge (Baker Creek). ‘An exciting true baby red-romaine! This cute specialty lettuce is hardy and easy to grow in many climates’. New to me this year
  • Red Sails (Nickys Seeds). ‘Red Sails has been trialed as a winter lettuce in the South’. Looking forward to trying this
  • Sunset (Baker Creek). ‘Super deep, beautiful red! A great variety for home and market gardeners alike. An excellent leaf type that was AAS winner in 1987, but has become rare’. New to me this year
  • Tom Thumb (Baker Creek). overwintered well for me in my placcy greenhouse, but not convinced by the flavour. Will give it another go just to make sure 
  • Winter Marvel (Real Seeds). Winter Butterhead lettuce, ‘A cold resistant lettuce from France, for production under a bit of cover over winter. Sow from August onwards for harvest through Autumn and Spring’. New to me this year
  • Val d’Orges (Baker Creek). ‘Tender, buttery-soft, light-green leaves are a delight to eat. A French heirloom type that is large and perfect for overwintering in mild climates, or fall harvesting in cooler climates’. New to me this year
  • Winter Density (D T Brown). ‘’Winter Density’ is a dwarf, compact lettuce that forms crisp, dark green heads of leaves from spring to autumn. hearts. Good for autumn sowing ‘Winter Density’ is a dwarf, compact lettuce that forms crisp, dark green heads of leaves from spring to autumn. hearts. Good for autumn sowing Like a larger version of Little Gem in shape and flavour, you will not be disappointed by this reliable cos lettuce’. I’ll see about that last comment later this
    year….
  • Land Cress ~ (seed swap) Also known as American Cress, and is a good substitute for Watercress
  • Endive  ~
  • De Meaux (Baker Creek). ‘Broad, dark green heads with creamy-white, blanched hearts that are heavenly in salads; the leaves are very notched. This pre-1885 French heirloom is best for fall plantings’. Looking forward to trying this as only some of the Endive made it through the winter, and I have a great recipe for Endive and Borlotto bean soup
  • Riccia Pancaliri a Costa Bianca (Original Touch). ‘Endive seeds for the Pancalieri a Costa Rosata produces an early and curly variety of endive. It grows a yellow heart and a self-whitening head with long, green leaves. This variety is ideal for eating both raw and cooked. Best in the Autumn but can harvest from September right through until November’. Over wintered well and still going strong in April
  • Fiorentina (Original Touch). ‘Endive seeds for the Super Fiorentina Verde grow an Autumn/Winter variety of endive
    with sowing from July through until October. Harvesting starts from August and runs right through until Christmas. A couple of days before picking, cover the head and this will turn the leaves white’. New to me this year
  • Chicory Variegata Di Castelfranco (Seeds of Italy). ‘Beautiful stunning leaves which look like they have been splattered with red paint from a brush. This Venetian variety is quite hardy and can be harvested till the end of December.’
  • Lambs Lettuce   (Mache)
  • D’Olanda A Seme Grosso (Seeds of Italy). ‘Lambs lettuce / Mache or corn salad. Resists low temperatures. Open full heart rosettes of soft melt-in-the-mouth leaves. SowMar-Apr and Jul-Oct’.
  • Jade (D T Brown) Can also be grown under glass, sow September to January in pots, harvest from November.
    ‘Glossy green, spoon-shaped leaves on compact plants with a distinct mild flavour. Can be grown for the whole head or as an easy ‘cut and come again’ crop.’
  • Ronde Maraichere (Condian). Did well last year, but needs protection from Pigeons as they seem to like it as well
  • Spinach ~
  • Viking – Picked throughout winter but especially good in late winter and early spring for picking young leaves
    for salads
  • Perpetual – I was able to pick this up till late winter then again from February onwards. A real survivor!
  • Geant d’Hiver (Association Kokopelli) sow Sept to Oct and harvest November through to Spring. Lovely large leaves,
    perfect for sauteing
  • Spring Onion
  • Pal – overwintered well with minimal protection
  • White Lisbon (D T Brown) ‘Regarded by many as THE spring onion, it is a fast grower and has a great taste.’
  •  Tonga – overwintered well with minimal protection
  • Turnip   Snowball. Not normally considered a winter crop but a batch sown late summer overwintered well for me last year. (Thompson & Morgan) ‘ 1st class, crystal white, globular roots with a juicy sweet flavour’.

How to Grow Winter crops

  • Protection
  • Indoors / Outdoors

Extending the Seasons

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15 thoughts on “Winter Growing

    • Hi Katy and thanks for your interest. There’s an email notification/sign up button on the right hand side of main page of the blog (click on the home tab), if you scroll down a little you’ll see a button marked “Sign me up” :)

    • Hi, and thanks for dropping by. I’ve only been gardening in winter a few years, so I’m still learning. But it is amazing how much you can grow, I think the trick is to find the right varieties. And you’ve reminded me that I need to update this page !

  1. Wow – that’s impressive! Winter growing is only something I’ve been aiming for recently. Growing in the summer is hectic enough! Our celeriac grown this year for the first time is fantastic, and a couple of years ago we managed to grow parsnips. What has been successful this winter?

    • Thank you. This year hasn’t been as good as previous year, but I still have some good things to eat. But everything seems so small this year which I’m putting down to the lack of rain in Autumn, things just didn’t get big enough before the days got shorter.
      What hasn’t worked are my cauliflowers (again!), but the winter radish and mooli are all good, as are the outdoor lettuce and salads. The spinach and chard are picking up (but some bolted in late summer/early autumn so I lost a lot that way, and the Kale is ok too, but small this year. The Brussel Sprouts aren’t great (too dry for them), and I forgot to sow parsnips (can you believe it!), plus I managed to get the sowings of carrots all wrong so we didn’t have any in late autumn/early winter! The cabbages are okish not brilliant thogh, but on the plus side the Purple Sprouting Broccoli is looking healthy so I’m really looking forward to that.
      Congrats on growing celeriac. Mine failed miserably. I will try it again though as I love the flavour
      I can’t wait for Spring to start properly :)

    • Hi there, nice to “meet” you! The winter growing this year hasn’t been as successful as previous years, but that is entirely my own fault for not being as organised and being away a lot. But what amazed me, and probably what got me blogging (that and seed saving) was the realisation of how much we can actually grow in winter. I crave fresh veggies like salads. I think late Jan and early Feb are the leanest times. and now I’m looking forward to Spring and those first pickings :)

  2. Hi if you have any tips on growing Mooli or Pak choi I would be eternally grateful. I have never been able to get any sort of crop from either of these veg mine grow their seed leaves and then maybe 2 or 3 true leaves and then they bolt, I have tried growing these in spring, autumn and winter without success and its driving me bonkers. Another veg I cant grow is celery or celeriac It never get stalks or a big bulb to eat I have great foliage and loads of healthy looking roots but nothing on them are edible. Your veg sounds great and I will be trying some of them for this winter. I grow alot of leeks and kale and the other winter veggies like sprouts, broccoii and cabbages but I find myself having to eat supermarket salad if I want them. I have tried lettuce but it never grows to anything worth eating Ive even tried them in the greenhouse. You obviously have very green fingers and any advise would be of HELP.

    • Oh I’m sure I can learn from you – my Brussel Sprouts have been pathetic for the last couple of years! I need to see what you do and when you sow them.
      Hmmm, pak choy and Mooli. I have better luck with Mooli which I sow in a large bucket/bag in around august time, it’s a mixture of sand and compost and then I water them, and that’s it! But I will write about it a bit more this year to try and explain it a bit better. Pak Choy can be touchy – too cold and too hot! I think the key is the timing for sowing – again late July early august seem to be good, that way I get a crop in autumn and some years I can leave them in the ground over winter, with some enviromesh over them and I can still eat them in late winter / early spring. I tend to sow seeds and then transplant them. I had a good conversation a few weeks ago with a fellow blogger and they suggested quick transplanting as some greens can get root-bound.
      Celeriac has so far failed me, but I’ve only tried once. But I did find this article and I’m going to try again – http://www.patnsteph.net/weblog/2007/01/celariac-secrets/
      I think with salads it’s down to the varieties, mine didn’t do at all well this winter in the greenhouse, but I don’t think I prepared the ground properly for them, the ones outside did better! Again I need to write a bit more about what I do to try and figure out what works and why.
      I’m looking forward to swapping growing notes :)

  3. I am probably going to teach a granny to suck eggs as the saying goes but firstly thank you for the advise you have given me on growing moolie and pakchoi. I will definitely be trying this in August. I am lucky in a way with my allotments because our ground is clay and I think this is best for all brasicas especially sprouts which need to be in very firm ground. I have already planted my 1st lot of sprouts outside undercover from the pigeons. I sowed these seeds back in February and waited until they were large enough to pot up into 3″ pots so I could put out plants large enough to battle most nasties. I add lime to the planting hole this is suppose to combat clubroot and water well. The plants have to be firmed in very well (build up your mussels on them) because otherwise you will not get the firm round sprouts we all love to hate (my fave veg) but you will get the small open cabbages although very edible thats not what you want on your xmas dinner plate. Please make sure they are netted with enviromesh because the pigeons will eat every last leaf in a heartbeat, and use slug pellets or similar because they will also eat the lot. It isnt to late to sow the seed now but if you want sprouts for xmas then they probably need sowing very soon as they need a long growing season.
    Thats all I do but I think as with everything alot of luck is needed, one year you can have a great crop and as you know next year could be a disaster and you have done everything exactly the same. But the main thing with sprouts is a very firm ground, walk over the ground first on your heels before planting any brassica. I hope this helps you and I will definitely try moolie again this year.
    Thank you

    • I believe I keep learning and want to thank you for your tips with Brussel Sprouts. You know I’ve heard and read about firming them in, but you painted such a good picture for me I now undertand what it really means. So shortly I will be trampling and flattening and jumping up and down on the planned patch, and then REALLY firming them in with my heels. I can’t tell you how much your word smade sense to me!
      I’m also on heavy clay, so know it’s benefits and drawbacks – I grow carrots, parsnips and mooli all in bags, boxes and troughs, I’ve made the soil a lot mor eworkable over the years, but I don’t think it’s ready yet for long tap rooted veggies :)
      with the pak choi – I also sow way more than I’ll ever need, so a few can get munched on, and it’s good to meet another enviromesh user – it’s clever stuff!
      Let’s hope for a happy hardening year :)

  4. I have made a very large boxed bed filled with compost and sand for my parsnips but I must admit I have had better results by sowing them straight into the ground. You would have thought the prepared bed would have been better but no not really. I also grow my carrots in tyres stacked 3 high and the outer edge of the tyres filled out with scrunched up newspapers and the bottom 1 and half tyres filled with bricks then the rest of the tyres are filled with 2 parts sand to 1 part compost then the carrots are sown in the top of that. This stops the carrot root fly as it cant fly that high up. The bottom 1 and half tyres are filled with bricks and old soil because the carrots wont grow that far down and it would be a waste of good compost. I have had very good results using the tyres. At the end of the season the soil level would have dropped so it is topped up with the same again compost and sand and resown again come March. I have 4 piles of these tyres so I can have a succession of sowings.

    • Interesting about the parsnips, I’m now in a position where I’m planning on creating a boxed bed later this year (when the garlic is out) and want to be able to use it for roots.
      I’ve read and seen the tyres, it’s such a great idea. I need to check on our allotment rules about bringing them onto site as I know some allotments ban them. But your way of filling the bottoms up with rubble is genius, and I’ll be stealing that idea shortly :)

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