Growing food over winter
August is one of the best months in the kitchen garden because all the love you’ve given your plants so far should be starting to pay off. Depending on when you sowed them, July could already have seen you feasting on home-grown early potatoes, salads, beetroot, carrots, beans, peas and more, but August is the month you’ll need to stay on top of your harvesting game as pickings come in thick and fast.
However, now’s not the time to sit back on your laurels enjoying fresh produce from your plots, it’s also the time to get sowing your next batch of seeds. As the days get shorter and the temperature drops we can still grow a wide range of food in the UK to be harvested over winter and into spring. The cooler weather means some plants don’t get all hot and bothered and bolt (go to flower) too soon. They also thrive in the wetter autumn weather.
Although it’s associated with summer, surprisingly leafy greens are one of the easiest things to grow all year round. Different varieties do well in different seasons and one group that thrives in winter are plants related to broccoli and sprouts (the brassica family) including kale, Asian greens like mizuna and pak choi, salad rocket and mustard. Other green leaves like chard, chicory, claytonia and corn salad can be added to create a great mixed salad.
The brilliant brassica family doesn’t stop at salads. It also includes kohlrabi, turnip, swede, radish and cabbage, all of which can be sown now mainly to give you a head start in the spring. This is a period called the hungry gap in the UK, where stocks of stored food have run out and little is being harvested from the ground, so all fresh air-miles free food is a boon. Check the packet first though as some varieties do better when sown in the early months of the year.
Other things to try are coriander, dill and parsley. They all prefer cooler weather and if they get established before the days get too short they will help to keep your cooking tasty and fresh over winter.
Finally, if you fancy a challenge, the first early potato varieties are often sold around now to be harvested in November or December. It’s a real treat to dig up some spuds to serve with all the trimmings on Christmas day.