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What to plant this month, raised beds and growing aids

Posted by David Domoney, on December 1, 2021.

David Domoney with Garantia UK Ergo Raised Bed

Though winter may be quieter in the vegetable garden, there are still seeds to sow and plants to care for over the chillier months. Some plants are frost hardy and even need frosts to perform their best, however some will benefit from a bit of protection from the elements to see them through.

Seeds to sow

Even in winter you can sow some vegetable seeds, as long as they’re given the right conditions. In fact, it can help you to get better successional harvests rather than just the crops of seeds sown in spring.

The winter solstice is the traditional day for planting garlic sets. But you don’t need to wait until 21st December to get planting garlic, although it is an easy way to remember when to plant it. As well, it gives sufficient time for the garlic to mature and get a winter chill for good bulb growth. Plant out garlic cloves in a well-drained and sunny spot, using a dibber to make the holes. Position the clove with the pointed end facing upwards, before covering and watering in well.

For an early crop of broad beans as early as May, sow broad beans outdoors in December. The seeds will germinate within a few weeks and then will overwinter, ready for the warmer temperatures in spring. Over winter, it’s ideal to protect the young plants with growing tunnel that protects them from bad weather as well as pests. The convenient recess at the top allows water to drain into the soil to keep compost moist.

Lamb’s lettuce or corn salad is an easy to grow option for your winter garden. Sow the seeds of ‘Medaillon’ 1cm deep in an unheated greenhouse, or outdoors with the protection of a cloche. The seeds can be sown most of the year round, providing a harvest all year round, even through the winter months. If growing outside, this frost hardy veg prefers a sunny spot in moist but well-drained soil, where it will grow up to 10cm tall.

Windowsill wonders

If you’d rather grow over winter from the comfort of your own home, you can grow microgreens and many different types of leaves to add some flavour and a nutrient boost to your dishes. Growing on your windowsill means you can keep an eye on their growth and they’re right there when you want to harvest them.

For example, mustard greens can be sown at this time of year. Try ‘Red Giant’ that has red-tinged leaves that have a peppery taste to add some bite as a pizza topping or stir fried with plenty of other veg. When growing on your windowsill and harvesting as baby plants, the seeds can be grown 3cm apart with harvests in just 3 weeks after sowing if you keep the compost moist.

Many other microgreens are perfect for windowsill growing too. These are plants that are harvested before they grow to full size. Some great microgreens to grow are radishes that look great and have a spicy bite, ready for harvest in just 7 days and spinach that is packed with nutrients, ready to harvest after 10 days.

Festive favourites

Some plants need that hit of frost to have the best flavour, such as kale and Brussels sprouts. Although you can get early varieties ready for harvesting from August, Brussels sprouts are a festive favourite – or not for some people. When the sprouts are the size of a walnut they can be picked, starting with the sprouts that are lowest on the plant. Harvest by tugging sharply downward to snap them off the plant. ‘Brodie’ has an almost sweet flavour, rather than a bitter taste, so you may be able to win everyone over with these sprouts on your Christmas dinner.

Another great winter harvest is kale, and the variety ‘Redbor’ will add a deep burgundy colour to your veg garden. The crinkled leaves add texture and would be enough as an ornamental plant as the colour deepens as temperatures drop. The plant can be harvested from September to January, perfect timing to add to your roast dinners.

Through winter, you can still keep your vegetable garden alive with plenty to sow, grow and even harvest throughout the season. Whether you’re overwintering veg with cloches, in the greenhouse or on your windowsill, you can still have a happy harvest over the festive period.