Winter Hardy Vegetables

Person Author: Helen Fowler Calender July 16, 2012 Posted Tags: , Comment No Comments

Although it seems summer has yet to start, we need to prepare for crops that will give us something to eat in winter and early spring. Look out for hardy varieties of kales, broccoli, cabbages, leeks, mustard greens and spinach. Many of these vegetables are stand well in the cold winter months.

Some crops like purple sprouting broccoli, sprouts and many of the winter cabbages, need to have been sown in May, as they take a long time to grow. If you look through the seed lists, you will find varieties that need less time to mature, and many that can still be sown now in July. There are also many garden centres and suppliers of young plants that carry a number of winter vegetable plants and often have collections available. I myself was able to find leeks, various winter cabbages, kales, sprouting broccoli and sprouts in garden centres and nurseries this weekend. A selection of these module raised veg plants, combined with some seed sown mustards and spinach will plug any gaps you may have on your plot.

After lifting early onions, garlic and shallots this weekend, I was able to replant my beds with bought plants of winter brassicas, and my own seed raised leeks. I will sow mustard greens and winter salads over the next couple of weeks.

If you’re not sure of what to grow, grow what you like to eat. I myself don’t like kale or spinach very much, but I love sprouting broccoli and sprouts. I am growing both the purple and the green sprouting broccoli, and lots of leeks.

Kales:   There are many varieties of kales and most are winter hardy. They come in a wonderful array of leaf shapes and colours, many of them beautiful enough to grace the flower border. One that has become very popular and trendy over the last few years is ‘Nero de Toscana’ often called Cavolo Nero or Black Kale. This is quite a compact plant to start with, growing taller as it’s leaves are harvested. It has dark green wrinkled leaves, with a pale bloom, highly regarded in the restaurant trade. Another beautiful variety is ‘Redbor’ it’s red wrinkled leaves deepening in colour as the weather gets colder.  Russian kale is generally more tender with a milder flavour. There are lots of other varieties to try. The variety ‘Dwarf Green Curled’ is particularly good for exposed windy sites.

Broccoli & Calabrese:   Again there are many different types and varieties available. Two of my favorites are purple sprouting broccoli and the fast maturing green sprouting broccoli. Good varieties of PSB are ‘Early Purple Sprouting’ and for a late crop, ‘Red Arrow’. The calabrase ‘Green Sprouting’ is not very  hardy but because it matures in only 3 months from sowing, is one I still will grow for late autumn and early winter.

Leeks:   There are lots of good leek varieties and most are very hardy, standing all winter long. Many of the blue-green leaved varieties are said to be most hardy. Leeks can be planted out from summer into autumn and by sowing different varieties crops can be harvested nearly year round. A good early leek is ‘Jolant’ a good old favorite ‘Musselburgh’ is hard to beat. A good late variety is ‘Flextan’, check with your seed supplier, there are dozens of good leek varieties.

Cabbages:   Lots of good winter hardy varieties like ‘January King’ and savoy cabbage ‘Winter King’. Also a very hardy cabbage is ‘Tundra’ and is said to stand through to April.

Sprouts:   These have long been a winter stand by. By choosing early and late varieties you can be eating sprouts from September through to March. Good early ones are ‘Irene’ or ‘Brest’ and late ones like ‘Montgomery’ or ‘Dominator’ will give you around 6-7 months of harvest. I myself only grow the late varieties, due to lack of space and wanting crops for that ‘hungry gap’ in late winter/early spring.

To complement these larger vegetables, I like to grow winter salads and mustard greens. Although even winter lettuce varieties will need some protection, mustard greens are very hardy.  I like to grow lettuce ‘Winter Density’ or ‘Vailan’ a winter gem type. These can be sown as late as August, but will need winter protection, I like to plant them in the growbags my tomatoes were in, and grow through the winter in the greenhouse. Covering with cloches or fleece in the coldest weather. Many mustard greens can be grown outside and are fully winter hardy vegetables. ‘Red Giant’ and ‘Green in the Snow’ are two good ones. Mixes are also available, but check their hardiness.

There are winter radishes often called mooli that can be sown for winter use and also perpetual spinach, which would also benefit from some cloche or fleece protection. Check out your seed and veg plant suppliers and see what you could be growing this winter.



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