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How to grow vegetables – Winter gardening
With the onset of autumn gales, colder weather and shorter days, it can be tempting to just let the garden ‘overwinter’ until the spring. Once you’ve done your autumn tidy up, surely it’s then all about staying in the warm and going through seed catalogues, picking out next year’s crops, right?
For areas that are sheltered from the worst of the winter frosts, the variety of winter/spring crops that can be grown is surprisingly wide. But for gardens in ‘frost hollows’ or that are exposed to the worst of the winter weather, there are other crops that you can choose that will be hardy enough to withstand all but the lowest of temperatures.
If you’ve done your preparation properly, your vegetable beds should need relatively little tidying up before planting the first of your winter outdoor crops. If you’re working on heavy clay soil, ensure that you’ve dug down at least six inches and introduced some organic matter such as well-rotted manure into the soil to make sure that there are plenty of nutrients to nourish the young seedlings. This will also help to keep the soil well drained and prevent it becoming waterlogged. Once your beds are prepared, you can sow hardy crops such as broad beans, Brussel sprouts, winter cabbages and purple sprouting broccoli.
Once you have made sure that the blank canvas is prepared, growing any kind of vegetable should be relatively easy with a little planning and forethought.
Cloches and Polytunnels
Most root crops such as carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips and leeks can be sown for winter cropping, and are reasonably hardy even through quite sharp frosts. By protecting them with polytunnels or cloches, you can leave the crops in the ground and harvest them as and when needed. This will also help if you are limited on storage space for crops, and for some types of vegetables will also actually improve the flavour.
Ensure that you nip out the central stems of the plants to stop any vertical growth and encourage the plant into putting more effort into producing larger tubers.
Learning how to grow vegetables is fun all year round, and if you plan your garden carefully you can ensure fresh vegetables with minimum ‘food miles’ and maximum freshness, even in the darkest days of winter.
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