We have had an ‘Ask an Expert Enquiry’ this week from Janice Ketley who has asked
‘When I take out my tomatoes, what can I plant for the winter that is low growing and easy harvesting’.
I am presuming that Janice has her tomatoes in a greenhouse, at present I haven’t got any spare room in mine with lots of green tomatoes still to ripen as well as a cucumber plant, two aubergines, 10 chilli and sweet pepper plants and onions drying out.
It is a good idea to plan ahead now for the winter months, a greenhouse, polytunnel or even a cold frame can provide a crop throughout the year and should be utilised as much as possible. Here are my suggestions what Janice could grow.
Plant some potatoes
It is possible to harvest your own new potatoes at Christmas or in the New Year, these are called second cropping potatoes and one of the best varieties is Carlingford. To ensure a harvest for Christmas they need to be planted by the end of August but you could still try planting some in the next few weeks for a later crop. Your seed potatoes need to be planted in large pots or growing bags in good compost, water them in and place somewhere warm and sunny, watering again when dry. When the weather turns cold bring the bags/containers inside to protect from frost and harvest once the foliage dies back.
There are many kinds of salad leaves and lettuces with varieties especially suited for winter cropping.
- Spinach (Baby Salad Leaf varieties): Sow September, harvest leaves when small from October-April.
- Lettuce (Winter varieties): Sow September, harvest October-April.
- Lamb’s Lettuce: Sow September, harvest November to January.
- Endive (Broad leaved varieties): Sow July-September, harvest September-November.
- Pak Choi: Sow September for late Autumn winter harvest perfect in stir fries or steamed.
- Rocket and Mixed Salad Leaves (Winter Blend): Sow September and pick leaves when young.
- Cutting Parsley: Harvest the young stems and leaves.
Spring Onions: One of the best to grow is White Lisbon (Winter Hardy) a quick cropping hardy variety, sow seeds September/October for a spring harvest.
Radish: Sow September in rows.
Herbs can be potted up and brought indoors to extend their crop.
Winter crops can be slow to germinate and grow due to low light levels and low temperatures, protect crops with a fleece or invest in a heater to regulate temperatures and keep the greenhouse frost free. During warm days leave the door open slightly and open the vents to keep the air moving and prevent fungal diseases, water you crops sparing.
Greenhouses/Polytunnels are perfect for drying out onions for winter storage and ripening squashes and pumpkins for use during the winter months.
I hope I have given you some suggestions
Happy sowing and growing