Top veg and herbs for planting a winter garden

While we associate growth and abundance with springtime, there are plenty of hardy plants that do well in the UK climate all year round – and many of them are delicious when sautéed, stir fried or baked in the oven.

Here are some useful tips on the best veg to grow in winter, whether you have outdoor space to spare or just enough room to squeeze in a modest herb pallet wall.

Meet the hardy bunch

Broccoli, cabbages and kale have more in common than topping the list of ingredients in a Gen-Z’s smoothie; they are all easy winter vegetables to grow as they tend to cope well with whatever the British weather throws at them.

Leeks, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts are also a good bet, although sprouts prefer to bed down under a cloche or fleece. Still, they are worth persevering with as - like most vegetables - they taste a lot better when harvested from your own garden, than simply checked out of the supermarket bagging area. Plus, you don’t need to wear a face mask to veg shop in your own garden.

Chard and rocket can also live through winter with a little protection, such as a cloche or a layer of horticultural fleece blanket. There’s even a chard called ‘perpetual spinach’, which as its name suggests is incredibly long-lasting and tolerant of learner gardeners who are still to earn their green fingers.

For salad lovers, it’s worth noting that if your leaves are a little tough on harvesting, they can be cooked – think ‘just like spinach’.

Avoid shrivelling wrecks

Carrotsonionsturnips and winter squash can also be grown to enjoy in winter if stored correctly.

 

Once lifted, simply remove any foliage, and shake off the loose soil. Then, to prevent any shrivelling, store your roots in boxes, packing them in layers of moist sand or peat substitute (gardeners are asked to use a peat alternative as extracting the real stuff releases huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere).

 

Once packed, boxes can be stored in any frost-free dark place, such as a shed or cellar.

Plot for success, whatever its size…

If you have a large plot… polytunnels and greenhouses are ideal for over-wintering slightly more sensitive plants, such as lettuces and broad beans.

They can also extend your growing season, by providing the right environment in which to grow plants from seed until they are ready to plant out in the garden. A greenhouse or polytunnel also gives you the ready excuse of ‘attending to vital matters of horticulture’ whenever it’s time to take out the bins, walk the dog, do the dishes… or whatever other household task you’d rather avoid, in your cosy greenhouse or polytunnel, with a flask of tea.

You could even have a go at building your own polytunnel, using a steel or wood frame and plastic sheeting. On wet and windy days, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

If space is limited… consider making a vertical herb garden out of pallets.

You’ll find plenty of inspiration on social media. But far from being a passing trend, these herb planters offer a really practical solution for smaller spaces and can be put together for just a few pounds.

When it comes to which herbs to grow in winter, mint, thyme, lemon balm, sage and chives are all very hard to kill - and oregano and parsley will also put up a good fight, even in cooler climates.

However, your herbs will go dormant during winter months before coming back with new growth in the spring. To enjoy fresh herbs all year-round, simply transfer your plants to containers and keep them on a sunny windowsill, ideally in your kitchen.

Enjoy the fruits – and veg - of your labour

It’s also worth remembering that you don’t need to be an expert gardener to enjoy the benefits of being outside. So instead of planting yourself in front of the TV, why not get out into the garden and plant something else?

 

Gardening is the ideal stress buster – and unless you’re obsessed with the Rothschild's slipper orchid (at £3,500 per plant) it’s also a lot cheaper than therapy. Plus, a well-kept and well-stocked garden can add thousands of pounds to the value and to your property – and in the current climate, they are more desirable than ever.