The Seven Best Winter Crops for Any Vegetable Patch – Regardless of SizeColin Campbell-Preston
The harvest season may be well and truly drawing to a close, with all your spuds, swedes and more plucked from the ground and currently waiting to be chopped, diced and sliced into soups, stews and pies. But this does not mean that your veggie patch has to sit barren and unloved for the next few months, there are plenty of crops which are hardy enough to brave the cold climes of the UK winter, leaving you with delicious home-grown veg to enjoy in the spring and beyond.
The Best Winter Crops for Your Vegetable Patch
So, if you’re a serial ‘veg-patch-ignorer’ as soon as the clocks turn back, the nights roll in and the lawn acquires a crunchy layer of frost, it’s time to buck up your ideas. There’s a great selection of crops which will survive the winter – whether you’re privy to a massive plot of land or your horticultural pursuits are resigned to a few square meters on the balcony or just outside the back door.
So, to get you started, here are seven of the best winter crops for any veggie patch – regardless of size (trust us, you’ll be grateful you heeded our advice come spring).
At Capital Gardens, we believe that a veggie patch is incomplete if there aren’t at least a few rows of onion bulbs doing their thing. A kitchen cupboard staple, onions are a vital part of so many of our favourite recipes so having a year-round supply is super helpful. Find an autumn-planting onion set and they’ll need little help during those cold winter months. The ‘First Early’ onion is a great variety which will make it through winter and be ready for the hob in the early months of the new year.
When planting onion bulbs, you only need to place them four inches apart, meaning they don’t require a great deal of room – perfect if you’re planting in a small garden or out on the balcony.
Likewise, so many recipes would be incomplete without garlic and summer-growing bulbs can be plunged into the ground in the late autumn – practically taking care of themselves as you enjoy the festivities of the season. The only thing to be wary of with garlic is with bulbs slumbering through the colder months, don’t forget they’re still underground when you come to plant more crops in the spring months.
Garlic’s another great crop to grow when space is at a premium, again requiring a minimum of four inches between each bulb to give them the best chance of growing big, strong and garlicky.
One for those with larger gardens (and preferably a greenhouse), carrots (in particular, the Adelaide variety) can be grown through the winter to be plucked and enjoyed in early spring. Although traditionally harvested much later in the year, planting these orange little beauts in the greenhouse in November means you could be munching on fresh, home-grown carrots as early as next April.
Sadly, they rarely make an appearance when snow is still on the ground and your back garden snowman is still calling out for a new nose.
These dainty and delicate veggies hardly look the most hardy and tough of crops, do they? Well their name hints at winter-hardy varieties which survive the colder climes and are ready to harvest by the earliest stretches of spring. We’d recommend the White Lisbon variety if you’re looking for a reliable, hardy spring onion which will make a delicious addition to the salads you’re planning as part of the new year’s diet.
One for the lucky allotment owners, get ahead of your neighbours in the pea stakes with a winter-hardy variety of the juicy little green veggies. Kelvedon and Meteor peas can both be planted out as late as the end of autumn, and will be ripe for plucking roughly a month before your allotment buddies are getting theirs out of the ground come springtime.
Harvest the peas, lean back in your chair and nonchalantly pop them into your mouth, drawing envious glances from your neighbouring allotments.
Some of the crops we have suggested so far are hardy little guys who are better suited to planting a little later in the season, but can survive through the colder months. Parsnips, however, can absolutely thrive at this time of year. Well suited to keeping in winter ground, sugars actually accumulate in parsnips when there is a frost on the ground, which can make the veg sweeter. Taking 130 days to fully form, you could actually have delicious, sweet, home-grown honey-roasted parsnips on your Sunday lunch plate by mid-March.
Although the plant’s leaves wither and die during the winter months, the spinach crop itself is alive and well. Spinach will slowly grow through the winter, toughing the cold temperatures and adverse conditions, to grow fresh new leaves in the spring months.
Spinach is a good one to grow on a balcony or in a small yard during the winter months, but would certainly benefit from being housed in a cold frame. For a good, winter-hardy spinach, we’d recommend the Savoy variety.
Seeds and bulbs for these delicious veg, plus an endless list of other varieties, are all available from our online store and our three store locations. For more advice, head into one of our stores where our team of experienced, passionate gardeners will be more than happy to help you out.