Late August and September is harvesting-time around the garden shed. Luckily, harvests were good in many gardens and will continue to be that. Harvesting and conserving excess products that cannot be eaten or cooked on the spot is a lot of work that keeps the gardener busy. Days are getting shorter and for many, this time means that the gardening season is already closing in.
However, for many more experienced gardeners this season’s chores are not finished with the harvesting. They know that they can continue to harvest fresh salads and vegetables through autumn and winter into early spring, if they sow out the right crops from now on until October. How would it feel to surprise the Christmas party with a salad freshly harvested from the garden?
In most gardens the garden shed is a bit of a sad sight during the winter with a little snow covering the vegetable garden. Maybe some lonely kale or spinach can be spotted. Changing this is easy and surrounding your garden shed with green, healthy and tasty veggies during the winter is actually quite easy, and we will give you some tips how to do this.
Do you need to set up protective devices around the garden shed to bring crops over the winter?
The answer to that relies a bit on which climate-zone your garden shed is located in. So called hardiness zones show how low temperatures will drop during the winter. So the answer would be: For many crops you would probably only need protection in the north-east of the UK inside the country away from the coasts where the hardiness zones are at six to seven. This is looking at the minimal temperatures only.
However, looking at recent studies, protection against the cold temperatures is highly overrated. What is more important, is to shield against uncontrolled wetness and wind. You can do this by means of covered cold frames at the garden shed, or put up foil tunnels that would change places with the garden furniture in the garden shed around October to November.
A salad is easily able to survive temperatures down to -10°C. It won’t look to pretty, because it will look frozen hard and it actually is. So you should not harvest it in this state. Not even touch it or go near it. The reason is that the ice-crystals in the tissue will damage it whenever leaves are moved during this stage. Thus, protective devices like foil tunnels, cold frames covered by glass, plastic or tempered glass, covered raised beds, or classical hotbeds, and, of course, cold greenhouses are less necessary as a protection against the cold but more to keep wind and snow away, which might damage the frozen plants by moving leaves or weighing them down.
If the salad stays untouched, it will simply unfreeze as soon as the temperature rises over zero again, and it will look as good as new. It will even grow during the periods when temperatures rise to plus five to ten degrees if the ground is not yet frozen any more.
Garden fleece can be stored in the garden shed and be used to provide additional cover for plants in the open or it can be put over covers and tunnels.
However, one piece of useful advice from experienced winter gardeners would be not to put on the protective covers too early. Young plants are able to adapt to cold temperatures. Keep them in the open until November to harden them for the low temperatures to come. In most regions the covers can be removed or at least frequently lifted in March. Opening the covers to provide some ventilation during warmer periods is also advisable throughout the winter.
Also, don’t forget the watering if the cover prevents rain or snow to reach the plants. Water poorly, to avoid excess moisture during the time when the plants grow very little at most.
When to sow out which crop at the garden shed
With the harvests of collards, potatoes, corn, beans, courgettes, tomatoes and other summer crops at the garden shed, beds will become available for some classical cultures of winter crops like parsnips, leeks,and sprouts. If you sow out parsley and spinach from now on until October, some harvest will be ready in late autumn and another part in early spring. At the time, you get your tools out of the garden shed to plant out your first frost resistant vegetables in early spring these crops will be nearly ready to be harvested.
So, for some crops the time to sow out depends on when you want to harvest. Due to the difference in climate zones and individual annual weather patterns, it might be best to simply try it out how a special culture works out at your place, and sow out cultures like these, or lettuce, lambs lettuce, bok choy, Arugula, palm kale, Mizuna, or peas in batches periodically. Pea shoots, of course will provide a tasty and healthy addition to salads or regular meal at any time through all the winter if you just harvest the tops.
All of these crops can give you a steady harvest all through the winter and keep the lonely kale at the snow covered garden shed some company.
Onions, spring onions, shallots, and kale are known to last through the winter, as garlic does, if you give it a good mulch. Broad beans sown in autumn will be ready a good month earlier than those sown out in spring. If these decorate your garden shed in heights of more than 30cm, it might be good to bind them to some sticks, so they can’t fall down while the stem is frozen because that would ruin them.
Watercress would be another example of a local crop that you could sow out in autumn to enrich your salads with fresh, organic produce during the winter harvesting season around the garden shed.
For any questions, please contact us or call Oliver at 020 3807 0369!