As the days grow shorter and the temperature begins to drop, many growers and gardeners in the UK start to wind down their outdoor activities. However, there's no need to put away your gardening tools just yet!
With some careful planning and the right choices, you can continue to enjoy fresh, homegrown produce throughout the winter months. Whilst we have missed the window for seeding some of these... In this blog post, we'll explore five food plants that you can still grow now to overwinter in the UK.
These resilient plants will not only thrive in the cold season but also provide you with a bountiful harvest when most gardens are dormant and into the hungry gap.
1.) Garlic - It is very nearly time to get your garlic in the ground, so get ordering your seed garlic now or pick out which cloves from last year you are going to use. Planting your garlic in Autumn and overwintering it gives you a fantastic head start on next year.
Garlic requires a hard frost for the clove you plant, to split into a fully formed bulb and so the sooner you get them in the ground the better. You can give your bulbs extra protection in colder parts of the country by applying a layer of straw as mulch on the bed.
2.) Onions / Shallots - Similar to garlic above, overwintering onions is an easy way to get started for next year. Whether you are using bought onion sets, or you have onion seedlings ready to go, October is the perfect time to get started.
Again, a layer of straw mulch can really help protect them in colder parts of the country.
3.) Leeks - These are the ultimate winter crop in our opinion, however you have missed the boat on seeding them for this year if you haven't already. We recommend if you don't have seedlings, see if you can get some plug plants online or at a local nursery. Getting your leeks in the ground, establishing as soon as possible. Or into the polytunnel in October, will give you a steady supply into early Spring next year.
We love planting loads out in our polytunnels, halving the spacing and picking them as mini bunched leeks.
4.) Broad Beans - Get those trays of broad bean seeds in the poly and planted now, or simply direct seed in October if that is your preferred method. With a mulch layer of straw the right varieties (such as Aquadulce) will overwinter and be one of the first crops ready next year.
The hungry gap can be a particularly difficult time for growers, and broad beans are a fantastic way to fill that gap.
5.) Spinach and Other Winter Greens - If you have some covered space such as a polytunnel or greenhouse then between now and October is the perfect time to direct seed them and get them established around the base of summer crops (such as tomatoes) before you take them out.
This means you are utilising the space, keeping living roots in the soil at all times, and getting those quick growing crops that prefer cooler temperatures ready for the winter. We use the Jang Seeder to get Spinach, Winter Radish and Mixed Greens into our polytunnel now.
Bonus - Now is a good time to get some seeds ready for your pollinator borders and flowering beds. Our favourite is to collect up your toilet roll tubes and get Sweet Pea seeds planted in October, establish them indoors or in a greenhouse and overwinter them for an amazing display of colour and early pollinators from Spring.
Don't let the arrival of winter put an end to your food growing endeavours. By choosing the right plants and following some basic guidelines, you can continue to cultivate fresh, homegrown produce throughout the colder months in the UK and prepare for Early Spring and the hungry gap.
If you can get hold of seedlings now: kale, spinach, leeks, Brussels sprouts, winter carrots, and parsnips are just a few examples of the resilient food plants that can thrive in winter conditions.
So, roll up your sleeves, grab your favourite tools, and enjoy the satisfaction of harvesting your own fresh vegetables even as the frost settles in.