Having a vegetable garden is a beautiful luxury and something that can be enjoyed all year round because you can adapt to the different seasons with different vegetables. During winter though you have to take a bit more care with your vegetables as they grow slower, however, they are just as tasty, rewarding and nutritious. Winter veggies are even more worth the effort as they provide you with organic, fresh ingredients for hearty winter soups and stews on those cold days.
Focussing on seasonal vegetables is also a sustainable approach because mentioned, winter vegetables grow slower, need slightly less water, and don’t overdraw on the nutrients in the soil.
Most winter vegetables will thrive even if it is a little frosty, but some ‘don’t do as well as others. So, what are the best vegetables for you to grow in the winter?
Onions & Garlic
Onions are easy to grow and will virtually look after themselves over winter. However, they have a long growing season and won’t be ready for harvesting until next summer. Then there’s garlic which is another straightforward one, and there are lots of varieties to choose from for autumn planting. Garlic also has a long growing season but is well worth the wait. You can get some delicious winter-hardy types of spring onion which make a tasty accompaniment to winter salads. Unlike onion and garlic, they are a reasonably quick-growing crop, and if you plant them in early autumn, then they should be ready by early spring. Perpetual spinach also makes an excellent crop that will produce huge yields of tasty leaves. Then there are broad beans which can be harvested in spring up to a month earlier than spring-sown plants; peas which are particularly hardy and will give you a head start next season and asparagus if you have plenty of space.
While growing winter vegetables outdoors will make good use of your plot, there are some things that when you’re trying to grow them will need a little extra protection from the cold winter months. Then there’s also the option of indoor growing, which still has its fair share of challenges but, thanks to innovation and technology there is now a plethora of options for doing this and plenty of veg you can still enjoy growing throughout the winter. If you don’t have the room indoors then grow tent kits are a good option as green, red, and chili peppers can all grow quickly and easily in an indoor grow tent, with tremendous yields.
Cauliflower and broccoli, are both fantastic to grow indoors, and green beans and white beans are some of the easiest to grow as well as tomatoes which as it’s easy to produce loads of them and they also have a million uses and are relatively easy to care for – so they’re a great choice when it comes to choosing what veg to grow. Just make sure that you have a good grow tent setup and you have proper ventilation to prevent any mold or fungus getting to your veg.
If you’re not going for the indoor option, then you will have to provide a little extra care for your vegetables to make sure they grow as best they can. To do this, you’ll need to look at protecting your veg with mulch made from grass cuttings, wood chips, straw or other organic material layered around the vegetables and garden bulbs. This keeps the plants warm and adds the potential for extra moisture absorption. Also make sure that you cover rows with garden cloth, tarp or fleece when severe frost is expected; especially for young seedlings. It is also possible to cover individual shoots with plastic bottles (cut in half) overnight or place a shade cloth over raised beds.
When watering the vegetables in winter, this can be really tricky, so it’s essential to choose your times wisely and water the garden during the warmest hours of the day during winter. The roots absorb moisture slower than in summer, and the warmth helps keep it flowing through the entire plant system. Remember though, don’t water leaves if the temperature drops below zero or if temperatures this low are expected overnight as this may cause severe frost damage.
Be aware of the wind too as sometimes it can cause havoc for fledgling greens when a simple wind barrier could make a massive difference in a susceptible space. Place mini fences, layer bricks, with spaces between, into a low wall, or place shade cloth around the vegetable garden to keep the wind from ripping up those precious young plants.
Once you have your veg all ready to go, then there are so many recipes that you can enjoy with them. You know already how important it is to eat plenty of vegetables, but in winter it’s even more important to keep you healthy and can help you withstand cold, chilly winds of the harsh weather.
Spinach is a nutritious leafy vegetable, which helps to prevent premature aging, vision loss, boosts immunity and has inflammatory properties. It also protects the body from a number of diseases and maintains the brain functions and the nervous system, especially in patients of advanced age. The antioxidant properties of the spinach help in the prevention of cancer and help to relieve chronic abdominal distress. It’s definitely one to be included in all your winter recipes.
Carrots are another one which can be enjoyed all year round but as they contain vital vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A, B, B2, B3, C, D, E and K, carrots are beneficial for eyes, preventing cancer; diabetes and helps in maintaining a healthy heart. Carrots are also good for maintaining good skin, hair, and nails and regulating menstrual flow.
Then there’s beetroot which is a vibrant and colorful vegetable and offers numerous health benefits. Moreover, they are incredibly delicious and contain iron, Vitamins A, B6, and C, and many vital minerals. These micronutrients help in the liver detoxification process, lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, and helps increase white blood cells. Apart from this, it boosts your immune system and helps fight inflammation.
Sweet potatoes are specifically found in winter and are an excellent and inexpensive food item which should be included in your winter diet list. Rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B6 and C, and antioxidants sweet potatoes offer several health benefits. As an added benefit, they are relatively low in glycemic index. They help you keep full for longer because of their fiber content. Apart from this, they help to prevent constipation, heart attack, flu viruses, common colds, and also aid in the formation of blood cells. Good source of magnesium in sweet potatoes helps fight against stress and helps in relaxation.
And finally, broccoli is one you should be adding too as it’s highly nutritious and prevents the thickening of arteries. Broccoli is loaded with beta carotene; it strengthens the immune system. Broccoli is one of the richest in calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, and selenium. Its high fiber content makes it ideal for someone who wants to lose fat. The best way to eat broccoli during the winter is by adding it in soups, salads and rice and warm stews.
So, even if you can’t get them ready for this winter, get eating as much winter veg as you can, and you’ll be desperate to start planting it ready for next winter. Winter veggies will keep you warm, keep you full, keep you satisfied, keep you healthy and; if you grow them, they’ll keep you busy.