Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Overwintering veg

Overwintering cauliflower
Today I harvested my first cauliflower of the year. Already? Yes, because I sowed it in late October and overwintered it. The spring-sown cauliflowers won't be ready for another five or six weeks.

Overwintering veg is a great choice for mild regions. You might lose a few plants to frosts and gales, but overall it's worth it to have vegetables available super early, in the 'hungry gap' (April to June) when the winter veg have run out and the summer veg are not quite ready. It also helps to avoid potential problems with cabbage white butterflies on cauliflowers and cabbages.

What's left of the overwintering onions
One of the best veg to overwinter is onions. Not all varieties are suitable, usually the ones that say 'spring onion' are, but there are also some tough bigger onions. I used 'Paris Silverskin' seeds last year, a smallish onion, and it has done well.

Sow the seeds around the middle of August and harvest from early May onwards. Growing onions from seed is a bit trickier than from sets, but seed packets are cheap enough to give it a try - just don't count on a high germination rate (though onion seeds seem to germinate better in the summer than in early spring).

Another veg to overwinter outside is broad beans. 'Aquadulce' is our overwintering variety of choice. Sow direct in November and harvest in June. We could harvest already but are just waiting for them to swell a little more.

Hardy broad beans

Indoors, in a greenhouse, conservatory or polytunnel, you can start the following in late autumn and plant out in March/April:
  • Peas
  • Lettuce and other salad leaves
  • Spring cabbage
  • Cauliflower
Make sure that the varieties are suitable. I sowed peas 'Douce Provence', lettuces 'Valdor' and 'Winter Density', tatsoi, spring cabbage 'Caraflex' and cauliflower 'Barcelona' and they all worked well.

Spring cabbage

A plant to try overwintering inside the house is chilli peppers. Again, not all varieties are suitable. I haven't had any success with it yet but will keep at it and try again this winter now that our house is warm!

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