10 Things you need to know about Growing Winter Vegetables
Growing vegetables all year round is a brilliant way to get the most from your garden. We know that if you’ve just received your winter vegetable plug plants, you’ll want to give them the best possible start and avoid any problems. We’ve rounded up our ten most frequently asked questions and fired them at our experts - these are their top tips for successful winter vegetable growing.
1. Can I plant my vegetables out straight away?
Our vegetable plug plants are strong enough to be planted straight out in the garden - however if you prefer (or if your raised beds are still full of courgettes!) you can pop your plug plants into a pot of compost and care for them indoors until you’re ready to plant out. Don’t leave it too long though, as they’re ready and eager to shoot off!
2. Do I need to protect my vegetable plants from frost?
Most autumn planting vegetables are hardy and bred to deal with some pretty cool temperatures. Keep an eye on the forecast though, and if frosts are expected in your area, protect newly planted and tender, leafy crops with cloches or horticultural fleece. This is usually sold in rolls - just cut off enough to cover the bed or pot and secure the edges with tent pegs or clothes pegs. Remember to remove the fleece when the frost has passed, as your plants still need sunlight and rainwater.
3. How do I keep the pigeons off my plants?
Pigeons seem to zero in on young plants like heat-seeking missiles - the best defence is to cover your plants with nets.
Make sure the holes are small enough to keep pigeons off but large enough to let any late pollinating insects come and go. Secure the edges of the nets as above, with tent pegs or clothes pegs.
4. How can I stop slugs and snails?
The most humane methods of slug control are barriers - surround the base of your plants with crushed shells, grit or copper wire that the slimy ones can’t cross - and don’t leave any gaps! If you want to get more hardcore, try beer traps or even nematodes which will kill the slugs. Alternatively, if you have frogs in your garden pond, you can collect slugs and feed them to the frogs. It’s the circle of life.
5. How do I avoid my salad plants bolting?
Bolting is when plants put their energy into producing flowers and seed rather than leaves that we can eat. It’s usually triggered by a sudden cold spell or a change to the hours of daylight and can affect cauliflowers, rocket and spinach. Dry soil makes it worse, so make sure you keep watering regularly on dry days, and for an extra boost, give your overwintering vegetables a nitrogen-rich feed in January.
6. How can I keep caterpillars off my cabbages?
Why do caterpillars love brassicas so much? We don’t know but it’s really annoying! Cabbage White butterflies are the main culprits, but you can stop them laying their eggs by growing your cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli under fine netting or fleece. Be careful that the net or fleece doesn’t touch the plants - you can make a cage with netting popped up with strong garden canes.
7. Why do root vegetables split?
The most common cause of carrots, turnips, beetroots and parsnips splitting is heavy rain after a prolonged dry spell - this makes the thirsty plants take in water too quickly.
Splitting is easily prevented by keeping the soil well watered during periods of drought.
8. Can I grow winter vegetables in pots?
Absolutely! If you have a smaller garden or a paved garden, choose vegetable plants with shallow roots whose edible parts grow above the ground, such as Chard, Kale, Pak Choi and salads.
Just a few kale plants in a pot can give your family a steady supply of greens throughout the winter, as well as brightening up your outdoor space.
9. Do you have any tips for Brussels Sprouts?
Growing the best Brussels sprouts can be tricky, but these are our top tips for success.
First, plant them really firmly and use supports if necessary. This plant grows tall and needs a solid start to avoid it falling over!
Next, use very fertile soil - if yours isn’t, you’ll need to feed them with a high phosphorus fertilizer from the start. Lastly, water regularly to avoid the sprouts wilting. We promise all that TLC will be worth it!
10. Do I need a greenhouse to grow winter salads?
Not necessarily. Most winter salads are specially bred to be grown successfully outdoors - in fact they often do better in cooler weather - but as above, watch out for frosts and protect your crops with fleece or a cloche. Winter salads grown outdoors should be ready for harvest within 6-8 weeks but if you do have a greenhouse, you can expect crops even earlier.
At Roots, we want you to get the best from your plants and enjoy the tastiest crops! If you have any questions at all about your vegetable plants, get in touch with us - our team of experts is always on hand to help.