A journalist once asked me “Whats the best time of year to start a garden?, and I said “Anytime!” There is not one food growing season, there are four!”
Let’s take a look at what to plant in your veggie patch in winter. I encourage you to take this leap into year round gardening (also called successional planting); your reward is great – a year round harvest. And there is, I’m sure you’ll agree, the gift to your soul – the ‘being alive’ feeling that gardening brings. The thrill of providing your own food, best food! – for yourself and your family. The small triumph you feel, when though it rains you went out and got on with it!
Wet, Heavy Clay
If you are on wet, heavy and therefore cold soil your winter garden will be best in pots. Over time the addition of organic matter, gypsum and mulch will transform the glug into the free draining humus heaven you need for year round planting. For now though, the best thing you can do is mulch soggy soils and leave them well alone.
Learn Your Place
Understanding your unique growing environment is essential. There is a lot of advice out there and not all of it is going to apply to your patch. The only way you learn your garden’s limits are by mucking in and doing it! This here is what I can plant in winter, in my Horowhenua garden, lower half of the north island, NZ. Tweak it to suit your place, (and your palate).
Vegetables to plant or sow outside
- Plant broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage for late spring harvest.
- Plant bok choy or kale for late winter harvest.
- Direct or tray sow rocket, mesclun, miners lettuce, corn salad, spinach, raddichio, sno-peas, peas and broadbeans for spring/ summer harvest.
- Direct sow parsnip, radish, kohlrabi, swede or turnips.
- Direct sow legume greencrops, as heavy feeders like broccoli come to an end. (Now you’re really thinking like a food gardener – preparing your ground for future crops.)
- Plant garlic, shallots, spring onions and onions for summer harvest.
- Plant globe artichokes for spring harvest.
- Plant asparagus crowns for future springs (about 3 years before you can harvest, but oh so worth it)
Vegetables to plant or sow under cover
By under cover I mean in the greenhouse, in a cloche, under bubble wrap or under bottles. Old windows and car windscreens are fab! Adding another layer warms the air and soil and speeds tender seedlings along. Another way to warm your seedlings is to grow them in pots close to your house.
- Direct sow coriander, beetroot or lettuce
- Plant out saladings
- Direct sow a mustard greencrop, after greenhouse tomatoes and peppers to cleanse the soil.
Good Things Take Time
It’s important you understand the truth of how long from seedling to harvest. Good things take time. In the matter of a broccoli you’re looking at 3 months, a lettuce 6 weeks, garlic 6 months. Add some frosty cold weather and everything slows, almost grinding to a halt. So when I say planting the winter garden – it’s just that – planting. The food you’re harvesting now was thoughtfully planted in autumn.