‘Like a second spring’: 6 winter vegetables and herbs to sow now
Clodagh McKenna explains how to grow your own vegetables
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Harvesting soft fruits and berries are one of the main perks of summer gardening, so it can be disappointing when your crops come to an end. However, according to Stephanie Hafferty, award-winning author, no-dig expert and homesteader, September should not be overlooked as a boring time for your garden. In fact, time is of the essence if you’re hoping to enjoy some home-grown plants in the kitchen this winter.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Stephanie said: “September is just like a second spring. There is so much that you can plant and sow including many vegetables and herbs for winter and spring harvests.
“This second spring is a great opportunity to grow more food during the cooler months,
“With delicious food growing outside and under cover, for harvesting right through to April and May next year.”
While this time of year is perfect for gardeners looking to refill or even expand their vegetable patch, Stephanie noted that it is also “very handy” if you’ve had a few failed attempts at home-grown produce due to the dry weather.
What to sow in September
September marks the transitional period between the warm summer and cooler autumn, making it hard to navigate as the weather changes.
For this reason, it’s important not to let time pass you by and miss the planting window for everything from potatoes and winter salads, to fresh greens and spring onions.
Stephanie said: “Timing is key at this time of year. Every day is a little shorter and cooler, so it is important to get things sown as soon as possible so that they have time to establish and grow.”
You don’t even need a polytunnel or greenhouse as all of the varieties which are ready to be planted can be grown outside with a bit of extra protection from a homemade cloche.
Stephanie recommended using wire or brandy twigs to make hoops which can be fixed over the vegetable bed, before covering it with some clear polythene held in place with stones.
She said: “Many shops and online stores are selling seeds cheaply now, so grab some bargains.”
Potatoes are a staple food all year round and are particularly loved as one of the main ingredients in a Christmas roast.
Seed potatoes can be planted in sacks right now to secure new potatoes in late December.
While potatoes are commonly planted in early spring, seed varieties have been kept in cold storage and “think” it is spring, so they will sprout now, according to Stephanie.
She said: “If you have spuds sprouting in your veg basket, they are fine to plant too.
“Grow somewhere sheltered such as a greenhouse or under a homemade cloche, because potatoes are not frost-hardy.”
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Fresh, crisp salads can taste just as good in the winter as they do on a warm summer’s day and are even better with homegrown ingredients.
There are plenty of surprisingly resilient winter salad items which can be grown now and are all very easy to sow.
Stephanie recommended winter varieties of lettuce such as Winter Gem, Winter Density, and Navar as well as salad rocket, mustard greens, spinach, corn salad, winter purslane, and land cress.
Stephanie added: “Peas grown for their shoots taste fantastic. You can use any kind of pea seed, or buy marrowfat peas from the supermarket for a thrifty option.
“These versatile salads are also great cooked in soups and stir-fries.”
All of these salads will grow well in containers on the windowsill if you’re short on space outdoors.
Herbs are essential to compliment your home-cooking through winter, and there is a wide variety of fresh greens which can be sown now.
Parsley, coriander, and chervil add exciting flavours and vitamins to raw and cooked meals.
Stephanie said: “I love to have plenty of coriander available to add to winter root vegetable soups and hummus.”
Unfortunately, the sowing period for purple sprouting broccoli has passed, but there are smoke alternative brassicas you can plant instead.
If your plants have been munched by caterpillars or you’re looking to add variety to your garden, broccoli raab, spigariello and Cima Di Rapa are all easy to sow and grow right now.
Quick heading calabrese sown now will produce small broccoli heads in late May/early June for a long-lasting harvest.
Growing your own greens is an easy way to add nutrients and vitamins to winter meals, as well as taste delicious.
Any variety of kale, spinach, chard, and mustard greens will do well if planted in September.
Stephanie recommended trying Rapa Sensa Testa for “lots of delicious leaves throughout the winter” and plenty of edible shoots in spring too.
Spring cabbages sown now will gradually grow over the winter and be ready from March onwards.
Stephanie said: “I sow a lot of spring onions in September. They are so reliable, cropping right through the winter and in the spring many varieties will bulb up, making small onions which are ideal for cooking and pickling.”
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