by Kirsty Ward
The nights are drawing in, the mornings have a chill and the bobble hat is securely on when I'm down on my allotment now. We are heading into winter but that doesn't mean that the allotment needs to come to a stop, there are always lots of jobs to be doing and vegetables to be growing. I always like to try and save myself time and, as a mum of two with a job as well as my allotment, I need all the time I can get. Spring is always a super busy time in the greenhouse, getting everything growing and ready to be planted.
To save myself some time, I like to get ready for spring by growing over winter and autumn; planting garlic, onions and, this year, I'm also growing, shallots. They require minimal maintenance over the winter months and there's no worry about the snow ruining your crops because they are totally resistant to the cold weather. I grew garlic for the first-time last year and I decided to grow it over the winter as an autumn planting crop. I had great success with it—harvesting a bumper crop with large sized cloves.
Overall, my first experience of growing vegetables over the winter had some great success. I didn't grow masses of crops but found kale was an absolute winner. There was an abundance of it, so even over the winter season I was harvesting kale to have with Sunday dinner—as well as making super smoothies with the kale and some summer berries I’d grown and frozen. Over the winter I still like to give the kale some protection, so I use scaffolding netting to keep away any pests. Some people also use winter fleece to cover and protect more tender crops, so if you are growing winter lettuce and spinach in the ground, these might fare better with fleece during really cold spell. They also can be grown under a cloche.
I planted my leeks in the autumn time, left them to grow over the winter, and by spring I had some wonderful leeks to harvest. Again, like the kale and onions, you can just leave them to it and the winter weather won't affect them. I keep the leeks protected by using chicken wire to keep the rabbits away.
If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse at home, or on an allotment, you can still grow some salad leaves over the winter to give yourself lovely fresh greens to pick. In the autumn you can sow wild rocket, mizuna, spinach, mustard, chervil, salad leaves, radish and lambs lettuce.
The winter can be a difficult few months for those who use an allotment as an escape and a sanctuary for their mental health. My allotment means so much to me and is helping me through a difficult time. So, the long cold dark months of winter can be hard to get through. To always keep myself going, I love to plant spring bulbs on the allotment first, to get those first bursts of colour before the big vegetable planting and sowing event of spring.
You can use your wonderful growing spaces so that you have crop all year round. Make the most of the winter time to prepare and you’ll have an abundance of fresh crops each month before you know it.
In her own words, Kirsty Ward is a wife, mummy to two daughters, allotment obsessed, seed and plant addict and completely winging her way through her growing your own adventure! You can follow her adventures down on My Little Allotment.
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