Grow at Home: Winter veg planting

Now the main growing season is nearly over I'm sure you  - especially if you are new to veg growing - are wondering what to plant now.  Well, winter veg planting is not as straightforward as you might think.

What it reminds me of is a well-known joke about a tourist who asks one of the locals for directions. The local replies: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.

Why? you ask.

Well, the traditional 'winter' veg such as brussels sprouts, leeks and parsnips are actually sown much earlier in the year. Don't worry though, there are still plenty of vegetables to grow.

Autumn / Winter Veg planting & the Soil

It is good to think ahead to what is going on in the soil in winter.  When temperatures drop and the soil cools below 5°C in November, there won’t be any growth until the following Spring (March/April). Virtually none.

So whilst Autumn is still productive in the vegetable garden, growth slows dramatically in October before grinding to a halt in November.  There are ways to extend the season like using a greenhouse or keeping the soil and plants warm with a Easy Poly Tunnel.  All in all though, the short days, cold temperatures and 'locked away' water means growth outside is going to be minimal.

What veg can I plant in September?

There are really 3 main groups of autumn winter vegetables and it’s handy to understand these so that you can plan your veg.  Some vegetables can fit into more than one category depending on the variety you choose so pay attention to the recommended planting dates to make sure you get the right one.

Autumn Vegetables

These are still up for grabs for planting and eating this year.  Autumn veg are planted in August/September but grow quickly so that they are harvested before growth stops in November. These include salad crops, turnips, spinach, Swiss Chard and radish.  Plant now and they can fill up your beds and give you some nutritious veg in the short days of winter.

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Autumn Overwintering Vegetables

These are planted in September time but won't be harvested until Spring.  They will become dormant in the ground over Winter.  Then come Spring, when the temperatures rise in March/ April time, they will start growing again. These include Spring Cabbage, garlic and onion sets.  Some of them need a period of cold to grow properly for example garlic needs a period of 6 weeks below 10° C for the bulb to divide and form into cloves.

You can also overwinter broad beans and peas. If you do this they will crop about a month earlier.  Good if a) you really like peas and beans and want to eat them for longer or b) you are a competitive gardener and want to beat your neighbour to the crop!

Spring Overwintering Vegetables

Now these are the ones that are traditionally winter veg but in fact should have planted months ago.   These have a long growing season and are ready in the winter months but require planning make this happen. Sowing season is around April (Sprouts) to June (Leeks) if you are going to be having them for Christmas Lunch.

So, what veg can I plant in September?

Here is a list of 12 candidates for you to consider.  You can either grow from seed or may even be able to pick up plug plants from your local garden centre.

Autumn Vegetables

  • Kohl Rabi
  • Turnip
  • Radish
  • Onion
  • Spring Onion
  • Oriental Salads
Overwinter Spring harvest
  • Garlic
  • Spring Cabbage
  • Broad Beans
  • Kale
  • Chard 
  • Perpetual Spinach

Let us know what you decide to go for in the comments...

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