Monday, 5 November 2012

Winter Vegetables


The autumn vegetable harvest is now either in store in a dark cool airy building or in the freezer, but fresh greens are still available right through till spring with a bit of planning for winter crops to grow on the allotment or vegetable patch in the garden. Sometimes you may have to shake off a bit of snow to pick frosted sprouts for the table, and if the ground is frozen rock solid you could find it very difficult to dig up a nice parsnip, but your home grown vegetables will be very fresh, chemical free, and full of flavour.
My winter supplies of vegetables include the brassica range of cabbage, sprouts, kale, sometimes cauliflower, then root crops including Swedes, parsnips and beetroot, and finally Swiss chard and leeks. I have also sown winter lettuce Arctic King last September to give me an early crop next year, but I may also get a few leaves from plants left to grow in the greenhouse.


Brussel sprouts are looking great at present. I still grow a very old favourite Wellington that never lets you down, producing good sized firm buttons for a very long time. They have not been affected by clubroot, collars protect them from rootfly and nets have kept the pigeons away. Caterpillars were a nuisance as the cabbage white butterfly still managed to squeeze through my fine net, but these got picked off as soon as damage was spotted.
Cabbage January King was a disaster as clubroot, slugs, snails and caterpillars virtually wiped them out, but my summer cabbage Golden Acre gave a brilliant crop and with such a cool slow season they are still cropping into November. Spring cabbage April has been planted out on new land composted and treated with Perlka against clubroot, collars in place for rootfly, and netted for pigeons. So they are looking good and hopefully will give me some late winter or early spring greens.
Curly Kale always grows very well and never gets bothered with pests or diseases. It is a very healthy plant to eat, so is well used fresh in stir fries, soups and other dishes. It freezes well with no loss of nutrients and can be used all year.
I will have to experiment to find a clubroot resistant cauliflower, as my usually very reliable variety All Year Round got wiped out twice.

Root crops

Beetroot may not be as big as last year but we have had very good roots and now use the leaves regularly. They are very similar to spinach and packed with healthy vitamins and antioxidants. Over the last few years I have successfully left them alone in the soil into the winter with no losses. In fact a snow covering protects them from any severe frosts, though makes it difficult to find them.
Sometimes I give them a wee earth up if a severe frost threatens.
Swede Brora has grown very well under my nets as the pigeons will eat the tender foliage. They are quite large and unaffected by pests so far. These should crop continuously right through winter.
Parsnip Albion is growing very strongly, but as yet I have not lifted any roots. However judging by the vigorous foliage I think the roots will be just fine. This is another winter vegetable that keeps cropping till spring.

Heavy feeders

Leek Musselburgh is another old but very reliable favourite, that will easily keep healthy right into next spring. Growth has been very slow but it will keep growing all winter. The young plants were dibbled into six inch holes in a two inch furrow so there has been a good covering of soil around the stem for blanching.
Swiss Chard Bright Lights always attracts attention due to the brilliant splash of colours all winter. It is another very healthy vegetable used like spinach in stir fries and soups. It can be picked into early winter as long as it has enough stems for cutting, but as it does not grow again till spring give it a break. However it is one of the first to resume growing in early spring so do not dig it out as you can get many leaves to harvest before it decides to run to seed.

Plant of the week

Calluna H E Beale, sometimes known as Scotch heather is a very vibrant heathers with long racemes of bright pink double flowers from late September to November contrasting beautifully with the dark grey green foliage. It is very easy to grow in most soils, but preferring an acid, sandy well drained, but moist soil in full sun. It is a good choice for maritime areas. It will grow in shade and semi shade, but flowering is less effective. This evergreen heather grows about a foot tall and gives excellent ground cover smothering any weeds that try to germinate. It is trouble free and only needs cutting off the old flowering spikes once they have finished. This will keep the plants tidy and bushy.


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