Forgive us for mentioning Christmas in August, but now is the perfect time to start your winter veg growing. Sowing seeds of deep green kale, rainbow-coloured chard, purple sprouting broccoli and bright salad leaves will bring a brightness to your December kitchen. You’ll also be armed with healthy organic vitamins, as you pick and eat throughout the cold, grey months.
Here are our favourites to sow organically at home:
There are plenty of salad leaves that will survive winter weather. Many of them growing outside with little or no protection. However, a tunnel, cold frame or pot on a window ledge will further extend the range of things that can be grown and provide bigger yields. During December and January, light levels are very low, so even under protection, growth will be slow. Try Lamb’s lettuce and Miners’ lettuce (Claytonia); both have small leaves that provide a mild nutty taste to winter salads. Or spicy, peppery Mizuna – a really dependable plant that remains productive for much of the winter.
Wholesome kale, weird-looking kohlrabi and delicious spring green cabbage all need to be sown now. This will allow them to mature and survive the first winter frosts. As they grow, earth them up to keep their stems supported through winter winds and weather. It’s also important to net them, preventing hungry pigeons from eating all your Christmas lunch!
Many brassicas are rich in vitamin C and K, plus iron – perfect for healthy coleslaws. Kale and young cabbage can make a delicious pesto, blended with walnuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan. And if you’ve never tasted a roasted young kohlrabi, no bigger than a golf ball, bathed in dripping garlic butter, then you’re in for a treat.
The rainbow colours of this easy to grow veg will perk up your winter beds and bring cheer on a dreary January morning. Red, crimson, yellow, orange and white stems all taste the same, but look fabulous in stir fries, or served in a creamy cheese sauce.
Winter growing onions will give you fresh bulbs to eat in May or early June, when there is little else ready in the veg patch. Sow varieties such as Paris White and Radar. Be sure to thin the seedlings, to get large single bulbs eventually, or alternatively, wait until October to plant out sets (baby onions).
Sowing seeds can seem such a straightforward task, but there are few common mistakes people make. For our simple tips to guarantee successful seed sowing, visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk/six-steps-successful-seed-sowing.
The Grow Your Own Wicked Leeks series is written by Garden Organic, the national charity for organic growing.
Each month we bring you timely advice on what to do in your organic patch. We hope they inspire you on your organic growing journey, whether you’re an experienced grower or just starting out. Share your own tips and gardening photos on social media under #GYOWickedLeeks.