Winter can be a tough time for gardeners; losing their plants and one of their favourite hobbies is not fun. How about I tell you that there are some plants that you can grow in winter? The key to a thriving garden in winter is knowing which vegetables are best suited to this kind of weather.
When should you plant?
Most vegetables for winter growing are planted between mid-summer and early autumn, depending on the variety. When buying seeds, choose plants that are more cold-hardy. For example, if you love dinosaur kale (which is a summer, spring and autumn vegetable), you should choose winter bor kale, a type of kale that is cold tolerant.
Which vegetables to plant?
Have you ever reached for lettuce in the supermarket in winter but pushed it aside because of the price? Growing your own lettuce over the winter can also save you money – a win-win situation.
Lettuce is one of the vegetables that thrive in winter. I recommend several varieties: ‘Red Salad Bowl’, ‘Winter Marvel’ or ‘Winter Density’. The seeds need to be sown in autumn and should be planted about 20 to 25 centimetres apart. You will, of course, need a poly-tunnel or a sheltered spot to use your plant throughout the winter.
Remember that your lettuce needs some kind of protection; although there are hardy varieties, they are not invincible.
Have you ever tried a carrot that got a little frost? They taste sweet… and you will love them. Sow your seeds in mid-summer and mulch the bed deeply with chopped leaves or straw before winter. This will act as an insulating layer, which you will cover with a bed sheet to keep in place.
Make sure the mulch is at least 30 centimetres deep. I know this is a thick layer of mulch, but it is important to keep the heat in.
Because spinach is exceptionally cold tolerant, it is well suited for winter. When the temperature drops, the sugar concentration in the plant increases.
You need to make a seedbed so that there is adequate germination. You need to put a row cover to ensure that nothing falls on the leaves and to ensure a good temperature. You can also choose the low tunnel. Winter spinach grows just as well in a low tunnel with row cover as in greenhouses or high tunnels. Low tunnels lower the temperatures and protect the winter spinach from ice and snow and keep the leaves dry. To protect the plant, this acts like an “antifreeze”. Both the temperature and the lack of sun restrain growth.
Rocket grows until the first frost and then goes dormant into winter to grow again in spring. If you sow the summer crops and let them grow back, you have a way of having both a cover crop and lettuce throughout the winter.
Rocket only needs cold protection in late autumn and winter if there is a severe frost (temperatures below 28 degrees for more than four hours). If your rocket bed is very small, you can cover it with frost sheets, bed sheets or even buckets in these circumstances. Remember to anchor the cover to the ground, for example, by securing the fabric with bricks so that no air can escape. If you do it right, you can raise the air temperatures by eight degrees.
These are examples of plants you can enjoy even in winter if you look after them properly. Let us know in the comments which of these plants you would like to plant for the winter days…