It’s gone cold here. We’re down to -12C (10F) at night. That’s proper freezing. We’ve had a bit of snow too which is nice. It makes all the frost worthwhile. But my plants are suffering.
The Winter garden is, well, wintry. The Sprouts and Red Cabbage are frozen in time but nothing is actually growing. The Leeks are bolted into the ground and I didn’t harvest the Celery in time. Poor things.
My Lettuces inside the greenhouse are – dead. I had a heater in there but I just don’t think it could cope with the temperatures and they succumbed. We won’t be eating it now.
The view from the greenhouse is bleak. My poor Peach tree (on the left) is in shock!
And inside the greenhouse there is not much action. There are a few seedlings undercover that seem to be shrugging the cold weather off. But apart from that, zilch.
It all sounds very depressing until you start to remember that a hard frost does have its benefits. It will break up my clay soil and kill some of the less frost-hardy over-wintering bugs. So it’s not all bad.
Every year I want to grow a Winter vegetable garden and every year it seems I miss the boat with sowing the seed and planting. Not this year. I sowed this little collection of seeds a few weeks ago and have been busy keeping them cool and watered. Around now is the time to plant them into the ground so that they can get to a decent size before over-Wintering. Although a few weeks either way won’t matter much.
I sowed Winter varieties of Chard, Broccoli, Cabbage (red and green), Kale, Calvolo Nero, Leeks, Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts. I also sowed Beetroot, Carrots, Parsnip and Rutabaga (Swede) direct into the soil.
The reason I raised most of them in seed trays and not direct is because I needed to clear some ground before I planted. Now that the Peas and Lettuce have gone over I have lots of room to plant my Winter garden.
I chose the site for the Winter garden carefully. I chose a patch of land that is high in nutrients (I have already dug in a crop of Arugula (Rocket) so there is plenty of organic matter in there. I also chose a site close to the house. In Winter I don’t want to be trotting through the cold garden to pick my Kale.
Now that most things are in the ground all I have to do is keep them watered and stake them if necessary.
It’s not too late to sow some seeds now for a Winter vegetable garden. I might sow some more Carrots this week too! You can never have too many Carrots in my opinion.
At this time of year I’m pulling up the last of my Beetroot. Some of them, however, are not quite big enough to eat.
With these you can plant them up into their own little pot and either place them under a cloche, or in the coldframe. Just nip off the existing leaves and give them a good water. They’ll soon start to sprout and give you baby Beetroot leaves for your salad bowl well into the Winter months.
Today, I finally dug up my Christmas Potatoes! I know, I’m a bit late but unfortunately I fell into the very trap that I warned against when I planted them back in August. Back then I said, “Just remember to dig up your Potatoes ‘before’ Christmas Day if there is frost forecast. You wouldn’t want to put in all that effort only to be foiled by a solid, unworkable soil on the big day!”
What with the snows the week before Christmas and the freezing temperatures to keep the snow on the ground, when the big day did come around there was no chance of home-grown Potatoes for us.
But today, I thought, I wonder what the crop is like under there and so I dug them up. The yield and size of Potatoes was disappointing. Only a tiny trough-full from a row about 2.5 metres long. And about a third of them were invaded by wire-worm or rotten. But the ones that did make it onto the plate were, if I might say so, rather yummy.
It may have been that tasting something out of season made me feel like I was indulging in some kind of forbidden luxury, or that they actually did taste amazing! I don’t know. All I know is that I couldn’t eat them quickly enough.
That said, I’m not sure I’ll be growing them again. The time, effort, garden space and brain space that they took up for what were meagre pickings at the end of it was not worth it. Maybe, if I had a larger garden, or a greenhouse… but until then these will be my last Christmas Potatoes.
My Winter Cabbages (January King) are really brightening up the garden right now. It’s a bit wet and a bit brown out there but the rain seems to add more zing to the green on the Cabbage leaves making them a great feature.
I planted them out in late Summer and they did survive an attack from the Cabbage Whites, as you can see by the holes in their leaves. Hopefully they’ll start hearting up nicely and with a bit of luck they will be ready some time early next year.
I’ll probably give them a feed in the next month or so with a general purpose feed. And if they were on the allotment I’d think about netting them against pesky pigeons. But since they are in the garden with two cats on the prowl, I’m thinking they’re safe for now.
What do you have in your Winter veg garden. I’m hoping for Leeks, Parsnips, Winter Lettuce and, fingers-crossed, some forced Seakale!
I’m attempting to grow some Potatoes for Christmas Day. I had heard that it was possible but I’ve never tried it before. I’ve done some research so I’ll tell you what I know but with the proviso that I’m not speaking from experience here, just hearsay.
Firstly, you need to buy a solid second-early variety like Maris Peer. Then you should plant them in the normal way. I planted mine a week ago and already they are growing well.
The trick with Summer-planted Potatoes is watering. They need watering during any dry periods – just until Autumn when there should be enough rain to water them naturally.
When the plants are around 25cm high, earth them up to give them a good sturdy grounding and space to grow in.
You might find that Summer-planted Potatoes are prone to Blight because they’ll be sitting through a lot of wet weather. You can decide how you will cope with that. If you’re okay using Bordeaux Mixture then you can do that, or you can try to grow them under cover (either poly tunnel or greenhouse). But either way snip off infected leaves as they occur, as you would with normal Potatoes.
But what about frost? Well, certainly in the UK the worst of the weather usually comes post-Christmas time. So you should be able to keep and eye on the weather and throw a fleece over them if there is a particularly nasty frost forecast. But, if your Potatoes make it to November and a frost hits then the leaves might die back but the Potatoes should be fine underground for a few weeks.
Just remember to dig up your Potatoes ‘before’ Christmas Day if there is frost forecast. You wouldn’t want to put in all that effort only to be foiled by a solid, unworkable soil on the big day!
It’s getting to that time of year again, when you start to think about (gulp) next year’s harvest. It’s time to plant out over-wintering Brassicas like Broccoli, Kale and Winter Cabbage. The seedlings should be pretty sturdy before planting out and they’ll need protecting against Cabbage Whites still. But come the first frosts they should be strong little plants ready to bare the brunt of the Winter. In harsher climes or on exposed plots you might need to protect them all Winter long. Here in the sunshine state of Bath, UK :) I don’t need to do that. Last year my Broccoli stood through the snows and everything. Just remember to plant them quite firmly and even stake them if your plot is particularly windy.