You can be forgiven for thinking that the colder months of the year are the quieter periods in your veg garden. You might take this opportunity and choose to stay indoors in the warm, perhaps on the sofa reading your favourite gardening magazine or book, or maybe watching old episodes of Columbo on the television….(spoiler alert; Columbo always catches the killer in the end!).
Granted the weather at this time of year can be very uninviting, with the thought of going outside extremely unappealing, but I promise if you dress appropriately, bite the bullet and go for it, you will be glad you did because gardening is so good for your physical and mental health.
If you want to get ahead with your growing season next year and be the envy of other gardeners and allotment holders as they see you harvesting produce weeks before them, then here are a few things you can be getting on with now:
I’ve mentioned broad beans in previous blogs, but they are such a great plant to grow I had to talk about them again. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for broad beans because they were the very first thing I grew on my allotment when I was a complete novice. This delicious legume is also perfect for kids to grow as they have huge seeds which are very easy to handle. They are simple to sow and germinate extremely well. For me sowing them has never been an exact science, just make sure you plant the seeds roughly 20cm apart. Choose yourself a winter-hardy variety such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and off you go.
You can start them off in pots first in an unheated greenhouse, cold-frame or windowsill if you have very wet of clay soil which helps avoid the seed rotting in the ground.
Another great veg for kids to get involved with is garlic because it’s just so simple to plant; combined with the fact the cloves are nice and big which make them easy to handle, it’s a real winner. Garlic is best planted in autumn with a general rule of thumb being to get it in the ground before Christmas. Garlic is extremely low maintenance and as an added bonus is frost tolerant too. The only real requirements are it prefers a sunny position and some added organic matter in your chosen spot. Just plant your cloves around 15cm apart with the tip about 2cm below the surface of the soil keeping your rows around 30cm apart. Ensure they are well watered and weed free and that’s it. Remember to always buy your garlic bulbs from your garden centre or online gardening companies, don’t be tempted to use a bulb of garlic you have purchased from the supermarket as this won’t have been treated for diseases, with some actually being artificially treated to make their shelf life longer.
Some people might wonder why we even bother growing peas because they’re so cheap to buy frozen in the supermarket. But, fresh peas eaten straight from your garden are such a sweet treat, I absolutely love to eat them raw right from the pod. Peas are also great to grow if you want to get your children involved with gardening, because the pods are fun to pick and they can eat a few whilst they’re harvesting too. Pick a nice sunny spot and incorporate lots of lovely organic matter. Make a trench approximately 4cm deep and sow your seeds a few centimetres apart (‘Meteor’ are a good winter-hardy variety),. You will need to keep in mind that your pea plants will need some support as they mature, using some netting, bamboo canes or pea sticks will suffice. Stick to those simple instructions and you will be enjoying fresh peas in early spring.
There you have it, a few plants you can be sowing and growing right now. Always remember to read the seed packet before you buy though, as you will need varieties which are winter hardy.
So get off the sofa, put your wellies on, wrap up warm, get outside and get your hands dirty…….good luck!