Do you want a regular harvest of fresh vegetables year-round? Do you want fresh vegetables in winter when the growing season has already ended? Or in early spring, when most people are just preparing their gardens for the new growing season? Do you want to grow vegetables in winter?
If your answers to all four questions are yeses, you are on the right page.
However, before starting, let’s acknowledge that this is no small task. Winter soil and weather are not exactly plant-friendly. Plus, there are issues of pests and diseases. Still, winter vegetables are moderately easy to grow. You just have to choose the right crops. Then learn how to protect them and maintain ideal growing conditions.
That’s where this article comes in. In just a few minutes, we will show you how to grow your favourite vegetables in cold winter months without a greenhouse, polytunnel or any of that pro stuff.
The best vegetables to grow in winter
When it comes to winter vegetables, “what you grow” is even more important than “how you grow”. So here are our recommended winter vegetables. You will be able to harvest some of these during winter. However, for some, you have to wait until spring or summer.
- Asparagus: Sow in autumn. This will give your plant time to get established before the cold sets in.
- Broccoli: Start in early autumn. This gives your broccoli plant time to mature for winter harvest.
- Brussel sprouts: This vegetable doesn’t just survive in winter. It actually tastes better because of it. Start as early as April if you want to harvest in winter.
- Cabbage: Here is another hardy vegetable to grace your salad bowls during winter. You can start planting as early as April.
- Carrots: This is another vegetable that tastes better grown in winter. Start in late spring or early autumn to ensure your carrots have enough time to establish before winter starts.
- Beetroots: Start panting in late spring or early autumn.
- Broad beans: Plant in early autumn and expect an early harvest in the next growing season. This is called overwintering.
- Onions: You can harvest in winter if you start early. But if you plant in late autumn, you can get an early harvest in spring or summer.
- Leeks: Here is another member of the allium family. Start planting in spring.
- Perpetual spinach: Start this leafy green in autumn and you will have harvest for your salad plate during winter. The same goes for chicory and swish chard.
- Pak choi: Sow in late summer or autumn and expect to harvest in winter.
- Peas: Plant in early autumn and expect an early harvest in the next growing season.
- Potatoes: Sow in summer and you could have fresh potatoes on the table by Christmas.
- Rockets: Sow in autumn and expect to harvest during winter.
How to start growing vegetables in winter
Like in a regular growing season, how-to-grow will vary depending on the plant, soil, weather and personal preferences. When growing vegetables in winter, the only rule is to start the crops before the cold sets in.
That is because the soil and weather will be warmer, moister and generally friendlier to plant growth. Your vegetables will also have time to get established before winter, increasing the odds of survival. Finally, the earlier you start, the earlier you get to harvest. So, start planting your winter vegetables anytime from late summer to autumn and early winter at the latest.
There are two ways to sow, sow the seeds directly or transplant seedlings.
How to sow seeds for winter vegetables
When sowing the seeds directly into your garden soil, it is crucial to start while the soil and weather are still plant-friendly. Just follow the instructions in the seed packet and ensure the seeds are in the ground by August at the latest.
How to transplant seedlings for winter vegetables
With this method, you start your winter vegetables in a controlled plant-friendly environment like a nursery, seed tray or nursery etc. This increases the chances of survival and ensures a quicker harvest.
Allow the seedlings to develop true leaves before transplanting them. You can also use plantlets. They are more resilient than seedlings.
How to get a bigger harvest for your vegetables in winter
Now that you know what to plant and how to plant them, here are some tips for caring for your winter vegetables to ensure a big harvest. Keep in mind that these tips are only the cherry on top. You still have to start with a healthy plant and soil.
Prepare the soil before planting
Whether sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings, ensure that your garden soil is ready for the new plant. Remove weeds. Then moisten and till the soil before planting. Here are some planting tips:
- Plant in the spaces left behind by harvested and spent crops.
- Add organic manure (a layer of 1cm will do)
- Add mulch to keep out the cold and also act as organic fertiliser
Add further protection from cold and pests
Winter vegetables need protection from pests like birds, flea beetles, snails, slugs, cabbage whiteflies, rodents, caterpillars, etc. Set up nets and meshes to keep out these pests. You can also use fleeces and clothing to keep out the cold and wind.
Water moderately but sparingly
Winter vegetables don’t need much watering. That is one of the best things about growing vegetables in winter.
Firstly, these plants are hardy. In fact, they won’t need much attention after they get established and mature. Secondly, they already get water from rain and snow. Thirdly, the soil is rarely ever dry.
However, you still have to water your winter vegetables. Just do so moderately to avoid waterlogging.
So, you see? Growing winter vegetables is relatively easy. It is all about getting the right winter vegetables and knowing how to care for them. Everything discussed so far has covered these. Just pay attention to your plants, especially when they are young and yet to be established.
If necessary, get a plant nursery, greenhouse or polytunnel. Your winter vegetables will love it.