Growing your own vegetables in winter might sound like a dream but yes you can! The trick to growing and harvesting your own food in the colder season is to start them off in summer.
You may think it is too cold for plants to grow in winter but some of these thrive in the lower temperatures, with snow and frost actually improving their taste like kale! Mine are all grown in planters and raised beds in my north London back garden where the lowest temperatures in winter have can be around -5c (23f).
Some greens however will need protection in winter and as long as you can keep them frost free, they’ll be happy. I use a cold greenhouse but a sheltered porch or even a cold frame is great.
So here are the vegetables and greens you can start now in midsummer for fresh autumn and winter harvests.
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Growing winter vegetables that can withstand frost
Chard, Kale and Spinach Beet
These are all easy to start from seeds in summer. Sow them outdoors in recycled pots or seed sowing module trays. Keep the compost moist and the seedlings will be popping up within a week or even less!
You can also sow the seeds directly where you’d like them to grow over winter, if you have the space. I always have other vegetables growing in my raised beds and planters in summer so starting them in trays is helpful. Also, they are more protected from slugs and pests if you start them in trays first.
Once your planters or beds are ready, plant your seedlings in pots, planters or beds and water well. I tend to space them closer than the seed packets say, about 10-15 cm apart. This is because I like to harvest young leaves and plus I can fit a few more plants in!
Kale, spinach beet and chard grow very well over the colder season. They bear frost and light snow beautifully and their taste actually improves after these freezing spells.
So easy to grow from seeds, it’s almost child’s play! I love growing the Bolthardy variety as it is delicious, reliable and can stay in the ground till you are ready to harvest it without going woody. I definitely recommend it if you’re new to growing beetroot!
If you’d like a step by step guide for growing beetroot with tips, then you’ll enjoy my Growing Beetroot post!
Garlic loves to grow over the winter months and is best started in late autumn or spring in the UK. There are different types of garlic, and you can read more about this and details on how to grow your own in this post by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). I love sowing mine in November here just as autumn is easing out.
If you’re starting out for the first time I’d say, buy seed garlic as it will not have any plant disease. Then, from your harvest you can keep a few bulbs back to sow again. This is what I have done and my favourite variety to grow is Germidour, which grows beautifully and so tasty too.
There are many varieties to choose from so have a look for what entices you this season!
Growing winter vegetables that need frost protection
These are greens that love to grow in the cooler temperatures but will get damaged or die if frost touches them. Definitely worth growing in the winter as they are tasty and the best fresh harvests for your meals!
I grow all of mine in a cold greenhouse, but you can also plant these in a sheltered bright porch or a cold frame. Sprinkle seeds anytime from mid till late summer and you should have beautiful mixed greens for salads, soups, stir fries and packed lunches!
Winter Greens – Salad Leaves, Rocket, Pak Choi
Read more tips for growing successful winter greens in my Winter Salads post!
Fenugreek (Methi leaves)
Fenugreek or methi is a beautifully flavoured green that you can easily grow over winter. I have been surprised at the ease with which it grows over the colder months and great to add fresh leaves to my curries and spiced flatbreads!
My Grow Fenugreek post will be of great interest to you if you’d like to grow these tasty greens from seeds this year!
More Summer Sowings
You can also sow the following outdoors and they should be ready to harvest before the first frost:
Radishes – so many varieties that you can sow straight into pots or beds
Daikon (Mooli) – very easy to grow from seeds
Spring onions – sprinkle seeds directly in the beds or start indoors first
I hope you’ve been inspired to sow a few of these seeds for some delicious fresh harvests over the colder months. Join me on Instagram for great conversations and all my latest gardening updates!