The best chard I've found for eating quality is red-stemmed 'Fantasy' (Thompson & Morgan) – if anyone's got any experience of how robust this is, I'd love to know as I sowed it in a mild winter. A tunnel cloche of fleece is handy.
choose a variety showing strong resistance such as 'Oarsman' (Marshalls).
Leek moth is more widespread these days (it used to be just confined to the south), so if it's known in your neighbourhood, cover plants with fine mesh netting or fleece to thwart it.
Purple-leaved varieties tend to be hardier, such as the French classic 'Bleu de Solaise' (Real Seeds) and the British bred 'Northern Lights' (Dobies).
A row of black Tuscan kale (such as 'Nero di Toscana', from Real Seeds, who have a mouth-watering selection of kale varieties) is a welcome treat on any plot.
to be sliced, lightly boiled or steamed and dressed with butter and black pepper – casserole fodder like no other.
'Alaska' (Marshalls) is a favourite of mine because it's compact and stands incredibly well through the winter. It's an F1 hybrid and an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) winner, to boot.
I left an August sowing of 'Tetona' (Nicky's Nursery) over winter last year on the allotment, alongside 'Reddy' (Kings). Both provided pickings all through winter (uncloched) and well into spring – I'll definitely be doing that again. 'Tetona' is a classic arrow-shaped green spinach; the leaves developed a beautifully meaty thickness and deep colour as the weather cooled, but they remained incredibly tender. The foliage widened and hugged the ground for warmth so needed a good wash. 'Reddy' is a different beast altogether – its leaves became much more spear-like (a little like a dandelion), and the taste wasn't as buttery, but the prolific harvests of melting foliage let me forgive that fact.
There are a few things to watch for: the seed's shelf life is short so buy fresh each year; avoid over-rich soils, as this can give excess leaf at the expense of root; don't sow too early as germination will be poor on cold soils and it also increases the likelihood of canker disease; sow seeds in clumps in the soil, then thin to the strongest seedling.
Don't let all this put you off – just sow little clusters of fresh seeds in May and avoid being heavy-handed with the fertiliser.
There are some great canker-resistant varieties out there: 'Gladiator' (D T Brown) and 'Countess' (Mr Fothergill's) being two.
Most of us are familiar with the purple form of this brassica (affectionately referred to as PSB) and it is one of my favourites. There is also a white form, which is underrated, prolific and delicious (try 'White Sprouting Early' from Kings). Both types make large plants when grown well – at least 1m tall and wide – and they need to be sown in April in order to give you crops worth waiting for. The classic season for this plant is early spring (when growing, for example, 'Purple Sprouting Early' from Thompson & Morgan) and such old types are reliably hardy. Improvements in spear size and expansions of seasons have led to some varieties being less hardy, so a harsh frost would knock things on the head (a bit frustrating when you've waited so long for those precious pickings). I'm an old stick in the mud here and like the ones I grow.
Beginner gardeners take note: winter- and spring-cropping caulis are far easier to grow than summer or autumn ones. Pop yourself a few plants in, in June or July, water well to avoid any check in growth, and await impressive curds come the cool season. Wider spacings (80-100cm) will give you larger curds – great for big families. Plant closely (20cm apart each way in a grid) for mini-curds, ideal for one person portions. 'Moby Dick', 'Aalsmeer' and 'Mayflower' (all Mr Fothergill's and all with an RHS AGM) will together give a good harvest over a long period. Try 'Clapton' if clubroot is a problem in your area, because it shows resistance to this troublesome disease.
- Top ten winter vegetables | Life and style | The Guardian:
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- How To Grow Vegetables & Fruit | Growing Guides & Tips | Grow Your Own Magazine
- 6 crops you can plant in the winter time – Fennel and Fern:
During the winter it may seem your garden has nothing going on, but there are plenty of jobs to do in preparation for the coming weeks and months.
If you go to the Bakker website you will find a wide variety of seeds and bulbs that can be planted during the winter for spring.
Sitting back and deciding how you would like your garden to look the following year can be a great way of relaxing and planting spring bulbs can be one of the most rewarding of all.
Once your flowers start to grow you know it won’t be long until you have colour back in your flower beds.
Starting a vegetable garden may seem like a daunting task but once you harvest your first crop you’ll appreciate the freshness.
Growing onions is relatively easy, and these bulbs do well deep in the ground over the winter months.
Look out for the Onion Electric variety, if you’re trying to add a stunning red colour to your cooking.
Garlic responds well to cold temperatures and frost.
This wonderful bulb is popular in stews, omelettes, salads and a whole host of meals, and it is reputed to be good for thinning the blood.
There are two main types of garlic to look out for, according to The Independent gardening blog: soft neck and hard neck.
If you’re thinking of storing your crop, then opt for soft neck.
Garlic doesn’t grow well in damp mild winters.
The potato is one of the easier root vegetables to grow and is resistant to frost if planted at the right depth.
The best time to plant them is February and they are usually grown from pieces of tuber that has at least one eye, or from small whole tubers, they will be ready to harvest three months after planting.
This plant needs to be well watered and planted in fertile soil; the seeds should be planted in January or February, but check which type of seeds you buy, as some plants prefer warmer months.
There are dozens of varieties available so you should find the right ones to suit your needs.
The best time to plant the humble pea is between November and February and the seeds should be planted approximately two inches deep in rich soil.
You should build a frame for them to climb up once they start to grow.
They will wind their tendrils around netting or poles as they develop, but you should be aware that birds love the fresh pea sprouts so try and cover them with some netting.
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