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Growing Vegetables in Winter

Hopefully, by now, your garden is prepared for winter. If not, here is an article on how to get it ready for the oncoming months:

Although frost will soon fall, you don't have to freeze your gardening habits and hibernate until March. You don't have to leave your garden empty, save for the leaf mould rotting in a wheelbarrow and the perennials trimmed back for the snow. In fact, there are a number of plants, vegetables and trees which will thrive during the colder months ââ?¬â?? something we are more than accustomed to in Scotland, anyway. Today we are going to look at just a few examples of vegetables which can be planted during the winter, and be ready for when spring and summer finally roll back around.

Garlic isn't just there to repel vampires and make your breath smell. It is a delicious, flavoursome vegetable which has a central position in many of our kitchens. And it is something which can be grown very easily during winter. Before planting garlic, be sure to clear out all weeds. This is best practise when planting any seed or bulb, as the weeds can smother the new seedlings. Garlic needs to be planted in fertile soil with sunlight. Sunlight may be difficult to attain in winter, but what does manage to break through will be enough. You can make your soil fertile by using leaf mould. When planting garlic bulbs, be sure to break them into individual, unpeeled cloves first, placing them in the soil with gaps of about 4 inches between each. Garlic does not require too much attention from you, the gardener. You don't even need to water it, as the rain will do that for you. The best time to plant garlic is early winter, so get started now and you'll have this delicious vegetable fully grown in a few months. It's not just you that loves garlic: birds do too. So make sure to cover your garlic plot with fleece or mesh covering.

Onions are another vegetable which are perfect to plant in January and February. Place the bulbs in fertile, well drained soil, giving them plenty of water and as much sunlight as winter allows. Once the bulbs grow to a fair size, dig back some of the surrounding soil and expose their surface to the light. When their leaves turn yellow, which will happen around June or July, they are ready to harvest. If you are growing green onions or scallions, they need six weeks before you pull them up. Keep them exposed to light and air, and make sure they are not drowned in water, and you'll avoid them getting Onion Downy Mildew, a disease which can ruin your crop. As with anything in your garden, if it does succumb to disease then get rid of it immediately.� You don't want that one onion being the patient zero which infects your whole vegetable patch.

Peas are delicious right out of the pod, or cooked as the vegetable side to your steak dinner. They take a little more effort to grow than an onion or garlic patch does but there's no doubt that they are worth the work. Whether it is sugar snap peas or sweet green peas, the optimal months to grow peas are November and February. Before planting them, make sure the soil has been mixed with a layer of fertile leaf mould. This will give them the best possible chance to grow fully. Once you've sown the seeds, make sure they are kept watered, as with any plant life. Once seedlings erupt from the soil it is best to start digging stakes or bamboo poles into the ground for the stalks and vines to wrap around. Sometimes the plants will become too heavy to support themselves and need gently tied to their supports. The birds love these little green treats too, so be sure to cover them with mesh or netting.

Leeks are amazing in a soup with some potatoes (which you can grow during winter too!). Make sure they, like everything else, are placed in fertile soil and watered thoroughly every day. Leek seeds can be sown in the spring and, when they have grown fully, still survive the winter in the ground until they are ready for harvest. Not only can they survive winter but they can be planted during it. A common disease in a leek crop is Leek Rust. You'll know your plants have caught this when their leaves turn yellow and begin to wither. Make sure your crop is well spaced to avoid contamination and always get rid of these diseased vegetables straight away.

Potatoes are the root (pun intended) of some of the most delicious meals. You can have them mashed, boiled, fried, roasted, or cut into chips, and every way is as delicious as the last. Potatoes are also relatively simple to grow. Get a hold of seed potatoes and allow them to chit. This is the process of the potatoes growing shoots, and can be achieved by leaving them in an egg carton, or something similar, until they are ready. Once they are, you can plant them in fertile, well drained soil. The shots will help your crop grow to its fullest. Potatoes are best planted in February for a May harvest. One tip with potatoes is never to grow them in the same place the following year, as this increases the likelihood of a diseased crop.

Lettuce forms the base of every salad worth eating. Some varieties thrive better in the warmth, some better in the cold. For winter, try Winter Marvel or Reine Des Glaces. Once you've got your seeds, sow them in fertile soil during January and February. Make sure to keep them watered, and covered with mesh or netting to protect them from birds, especially the lettuce-loving sparrow. Lettuce is ready to harvest when it has reached a full size, which can vary from seed to seed and from garden to garden. You'll be able to judge when the time is right.

One important thing to keep in mind is the temperature. Of course, winter is cold. Vegetables, however, require some heat, especially your potatoes and peas. Try covering them in fleecing if the weather becomes too bitter, or even start your seedlings in the greenhouse to give them the fullest start. With peas, if you decide to do this, let them grow to about 6 inches before transferring them to the main garden in early March.

Try getting your children or grand-children involved in growing the veg. Not only will it be fun for them, but it might encourage them to eat more healthily and want to garden more.Ã?Â

So there we have six vegetables that you can grow during the winter. Not only will this provide you with an excuse to tend the garden over the coming months, but it will supply you with delicious food in a few months time.

By Dylan Blyth.

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