Organic gardening - the winter vegetable garden

You might be forgiven for thinking that the vegetable gardening year is coming to a close. After all the churches are organising their harvest festivals now that 'all is safely gathered in' but there are still crops you can grow.

We recently dug our potatoes up, leaving a patch we can now use for our winter crops. If you fancy growing your own potatoes (which are much more tasty than shop bought), it is still not too late. Please see 'Organic gardening update-Harvesting the potatoes' 

Kale is good to grow for a winter harvest. It is easy to grow so ideal if you are new to organic vegetable gardening. It is a hardy plant but if you are going to grow kale, you need to plant it now, six to eight weeks before the winter frosts. Ideally this would be by the end of July but the climate in this part of the UK is fairly mild so we have planted ours (redbor kale) today. If your climate is not so mild you could plant kale out in a polytunnel. Sow your seeds in a seed tray. Fill the trays with organic compost and plant the seeds around 2cm deep. 

Sowing the kale seeds

Water but do not over-water and keep in the greenhouse. You should be able to plant them out in around four weeks. Plant them 12-18 inches apart (the nearer together they are, the smaller your kale will be). You may want to net your kale if there are still cabbage white butterflies about when you plant them out. They played havoc with some of the cabbage and brussel sprouts but I'll tell you more about that in another post. Kale becomes sweeter tasting after the first frost so you should be able to harvest it from November.

Salad growing too, is still a possibility in winter. You can grow rocket in the greenhouse. Any container will do (we grew our summer lettuce in ice cream tubs given by a local ice cream shop. We simply punched a few holes in the bottom for drainage). Fill with compost and sow your seeds in a 'channel' made using your index finger. Cover with compost. Do not over-water or you may wash the seeds away and lose the flavour, but you do need to keep them watered to prevent them flowering. Like lettuce, rocket is a 'cut and come again' crop. In other words you can keep harvesting the leaves and more will grow. We are also having a go at growing Lamb's lettuce. 

Lamb's lettuce

So there are a few ideas to fire up your enthusiasm for winter vegetable gardening.

You may also wish to read the other organic gardening posts from this year:-

'It's spring, the organic fruit and vegetable year begins!' -

Happy gardening days 
Janet x 

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