This is a guest post from Ann Sanders of A Green Hand.
Growing Winter Vegetables in an Urban Garden
At the end of tomato growing season, many urban gardeners clear the veggie patch and leave it to lay bare over the frosty months to come. However, there are plenty of delicious winter vegetables that actually do better with some chill in the air and will look beautiful in an urban garden amongst the ornamentals, trees or even patio. There is nothing like freshly picked, organically grown vegetables in a warm soup or casserole, and growing your own will significantly reduce food costs as well.
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Choosing a Location to Grow Winter Vegetables
The first thing to consider before planting winter vegetables is location. They should be planted or contained in an area that receives maximum daylight hours, and importantly must be protected from harsh winds. The soil pH for most winter crops should be between 6 and 6.8, so use a pH test kit and apply garden lime if it has fallen below over summer.
Timing the Planting of Winter Vegetables
The length of growing seasons and the extremity of temperatures obviously vary significantly depending on the area, so it is a good idea to check with a local garden center for guidance. Generally though, the larger winter vegetables that take a long time to mature (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) should be started in early autumn so that they can grow to a robust size before the frost hits. Quick growing crops like English spinach can be planted later and will actually bolt if the weather is still too warm.
Winter Vegetables for Small Garden Spaces
Carrots and beetroot do well over the cooler months when given a thick layer of protective mulch. Sow them direct in autumn in a small bed or deep pot, and once germinated, thin them out to the spacing suggested on the seed packet.
Winter lettuces are fast and simple crop to grow, making them ideal for children’s vegetable gardens. Sow the fine seed in punnets then transplant seedlings into beds or pots close to the kitchen for some quick greens. As soon as the seedlings go in, sow another punnet to have a continuous supply.
English spinach is a wonderful crop to grow during winter because once established, its nutritious leaves can be successively trimmed, as they will keep growing back from the base of the plant.
Other green leafy vegetables worth mentioning are the gorgeous Italian cavalo nero (Tuscan kale) which does brilliantly in pots and is a wonderful addition to minestrone and ribolita soups, and of course, Swiss chard which is not only delicious but looks beautiful in the garden too.
Winter Vegetables for Larger Garden Spaces
Those with a bit more space on hand should definitely consider growing brassicas. Essentially, these make up the cabbage family, and include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, romanesco, broccoli, and of course the wide variety of cabbages themselves. While there are a few dwarf varieties suitable for container growing, most brassicas grow larger (up to 3 feet across) and are heavy feeders. Soil should be enriched with compost and manure or blood and bone meal, and moisture should be preserved with thick mulch. Many of the brassicas are strikingly ornamental, such as the red radicchios, frilly savoy cabbage, multifaceted romanesco and the deep dark cavalo Nero mentioned above.
Generally, most gardeners will find pests and diseases reduced over the cooler months, but do keep an eye out for caterpillars and check the brassicas for clubroot if they’re failing to thrive. Watering can gladly be cut back as well at this time of year, making it a sensible time to grow vegetables in drought-stricken areas.
Of course, the best reasons for growing vegetables in winter time are the vegetables themselves, and sitting down to a hearty vegetable soup on a chilly evening is when it becomes really becomes worthwhile.
Author Bio: Ann Sanders is a founder of A Green Hand, a blog dedicated to offering a platform for gardening and healthy living enthusiasts to exchange ideas so everyone can play a role in making the world a better place. You can follow her on Facebook.