Have you ever tried growing some winter veg before?
A lot of people don't realise that you can grow your own food all through the winter months. Winter crops tend to be more leafy as leaves take less energy to produce than fruits, and there is much less solar energy around in the winter.
As there is less energy around to grow in the winter, its really important that your winter crops get sown early so that they can take advantage of some summer sun to get well established. This is especially true if you are growing outdoors.
It is nice to think that when you are eating your veg in the winter, you are really eating sunshine stored from the summer.
We thought we'd take you through how we grow a few of our favourite winter crops.
- Spinach - Varieties like "Giant Winter" have been bred specifically to be grown over the winter. We recommend sowing at the beginning of August (Charles Dowding swears by 8 August as the optimum date). You can either sow directly into the soil or also into plug trays if you don't have the bed space available. Its really important to keep the soil well watered to ensure good germination, as August can be hot when the sun comes out. Unlike spinach sown in spring, winter-grown spinach will keep producing for many months, and will not flower until spring the following year.
- Asian greens - Asian greens are one of the easiest things to grow in the winter. They are very cold hardy and there is such wonderful diversity of varieties available with different culinary uses. The optimal time to sow Asian greens is the beginning of August, they grow very fast and you'll be eating delicious leaves from September, all the way through till spring. They germinate very quickly so its easiest to sow them directly in the soil, but they can be sown in modules too. As they are fast growing, you can still sow the seeds in September if you get delayed.
- Spring onions - Spring onions make a great addition to a meal, particularly stir-fried Asian greens! They are also quick and easy to grow. The timing of sowing spring onions is quite crucial. If you sow them in early August, then they will grow enough to be eaten over the winter. However, if you sow them in September then they will remain very small over the winter and will start growing again in spring and you will get a very early crop, hence the term spring onions. They are happy sown direct or in modules. Our preferred method is multi-sown modules with up to 10 seeds per module. They can then be planted in clumps and are much easier to weed. Onions are particularly sensitive to weed pressure, so whatever method you chose make sure to keep them weed-free.
- Winter purslane - also known as miner's lettuce or claytonia, is an interesting and succulent winter salad leaf. It is one of the most productive winter leaves available and thrives in cold conditions. As it loves the cold so much it should not be sown until September or it will struggle to germinate well. It will produce a huge amount of leaves over the winter and will really complement other winter salad leaves. In early spring it will flower and drop seeds everywhere so you may never have to sow it again!
- Winter lettuce - varieties such as "Valdor" are especially suited to winter growing and can cope with extreme cold and hard frosts. As with spring onions timing of sowing is important. If you sow in August then you will have plants big enough to harvest over the winter. Alternatively you can sow in September, and the plants will 'head up' in early spring as soon as the weather warms up.
You can buy all of these varieties on our website, they are also all included (plus more) in our Second Spring winter growing seed collection.
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Happy growing :)
Fred and Ronja