Winter and Spring Crops Suitable for the Open Ground

Some ideas for winter crops from the BBC – what are you planning to grow this winter?

Autumn planting of vegetables and salads is practicable in areas that don’t get very hard winters. While some of your plot is storing veg and another part is resting, put aside a patch of ground for winter and early spring produce.

Brussels Sprouts
Love ’em or hate ’em, Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without a handful of those little green balls of trouser-trumpers rattling around the plate between the parsnips and the chipolata sausages.
Brussel sprouts or Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera, take up to 100 days from seeding to harvesting, so to get your sprouts on Christmas Day you should be sowing seeds in early/mid-September. Alternatively, in early/mid-October, you should be able to get established seedlings from the local nursery.
Propagate these seedlings in rows a metre apart, with a foot or so between each plant. Water well (if Mother Nature doesn’t do it for you) throughout the growing cycle, easing off a couple of weeks before you need to harvest. Shortly before harvesting, and as the lower leaves show signs of turning yellow, nip out the central stem of the plant. This will curtail vertical growth and will ensure that all the sprouts on the stem ripen at once. Ideally, old Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose during this fortnight, keeping the sprouts firm and tasty. Mild weather will give you mushy, loose, open sprouts.
To harvest, pare the sprouts off with a knife, or break them off by hand.

November is a good time to plant garlic, which requires a long growing season. It will take about 6 months before it’s ready.
If the ground is very wet then simply make a ridge, about 8 to 10 cm high and plant into that. Don’t use the stuff you buy in the supermarket, use a seed merchant and get a variety suited for your region. Good UK varieties include the new Early Wight and later maturing Solent Wight. The variety Elephant has a huge bulb with mild flavour. Separate each head into cloves and put them in, point up, about 10 cm apart and 5 cm deep. For every clove you plant you’ll get a head of garlic. It is ready when the foliage goes yellow and starts to fall over.

A Few Other Reliables
Broad beans are a favourite for autumn planting, but not before November in southern England or they get too soft and lush making them liable to be killed by frosts and susceptible to botrytis and other fungal diseases. Good varieties include Super Aquadulce for autumn sowing moving on to Witkeim Manita early spring and Bunyards Exhibition for spring sowing.

Hardy lettuces Valdor and Arctic King can be sown outside on light soils in August and September for harvesting in early spring.

Purple sprouting broccoli is hardy and should provide a crop for early spring.


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