When winter is close, many of us already have or are in the process of winding down after the summer growing season has ended, and we’ve harvested our lovely crops of veg. Did you know though that winter, while perhaps not as obvious a time as the months prior, can still be a time of planning and growth? Really! There’s no need to let your vegetable plots and greenhouses stand empty and bereft of tasty veg, especially when there’s quite a bit of choice available when it comes to selecting what winter vegetables to grow outdoors.
From carrots to kale, onions to garlic and more, there’s a variety you can choose from. Depending on the vegetable, it may have a longer growing season and will be ready for harvest early the following year. Some grow faster though and you can sow in autumn to enjoy before the end of the year. So, don’t let spring and summer get all the attention, extend the growing season through autumn and winter with these hardy vegetables and you’ll be enjoying fresh, seasonal, home-grown veg year-round.
Before we get started, if you’re looking for a guide on vegetables you can grow, harvest and enjoy before winter sets in, we have a great guide on autumn grown vegetables here you can save for later. For now though, lets get on with our guide to some of the best vegetables you can grow over winter.
A Polytunnel or Greenhouse Can Help Immensely
Even though certain vegetables can be sown in the ground and grown and over winter, it’s still a time of year when conditions aren’t ideal. There could be torrential rains, heavy winds, and other erratic conditions that your vegetables, no matter how hardy, will not like. So, give them a helping hand with either a polytunnel or greenhouse. These can provide necessary shelter and consistent growing conditions to really help them along.
Greenhouses speak for themselves and are quite expensive even if you have the space in your garden for one. You can elect for a polytunnel instead. It is a much cheaper option and sturdier types are available to ensure a consistent temperature and shield plants within from the elements. Both methods will help extend the growing season and give your vegetables the right consistent temperatures to successfully crop. Polytunnels can be further enhanced with bubble wrap tied to the inside to reduce heat loss. There are other creative ways to maintain the temperature in winter inside a polytunnel and greenhouse which you can find online.
Vegetables You Can Grow Over Winter
Here’s a range of robust vegetables that are suitable for growing in and over winter ready.
Peas are generally quite hardy, but round pea varieties are better suited to overwintering. So, if you sow these in autumn, they will grow over winter for you to enjoy an early cropping of peas the following spring. Top tip: if height is at a premium, perhaps within a polytunnel, opt for round dwarf pea varieties as non-dwarf varieties can grow quite tall.
Some love it, some hate it, but it does well over winter. However, it’s going to take quite a while to establish – at least two years – but you will be rewarded with a crop that can produce substantially for up to 25 years! Worth sowing if it takes your fancy, and you have the space after showing other vegetables on our list such as carrots, peas and onions which are more popular.
Onions are used so much in our dishes they have become a staple ingredient from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. You might be pleased to learn then that onions and their relative shallots, are very easy to grow over winter. So much so that they will practically look after themselves. Onions do have a long growing season and won’t be ready for harvesting until next summer comes. If you are planning to sow more vegetables in spring, you will have to think about your space and what to grow as the onions will still be growing in the ground.
Turnips are another great choice for their ease of growing. They can be sown and planted in early autumn and be ready to be picked in winter. Sow in the ground and use a polytunnel to really help them along. Alternatively in a greenhouse and they’ll be ready before winter comes.
Carrots are another good option. They are quite hardy, and can tolerate colder temperatures, even frost to a point. Sow in autumn and to get them to grow quickly you’ll want to ensure they’ve got a good growing environment, which could be done with a polytunnel or greenhouse. Plant as early as possible in the ground in autumn, keep them protected, the soil moist, and you’ll have a lovely harvest of fresh carrots to enjoy over winter. There are certain varieties that grow faster than others too so opt for one of these to make things go a bit easier and even have them cropping early in winter.
Growing garlic over winter, like onions, is fairly straightforward. Plant some cloves in the ground in autumn and without any relatively intensive work, you’ll end up with a full bulb from each the following year. They have a long growing season and won’t be ready to harvest until the following summer or early autumn. Garlic actually requires a lower temperature to allow the clove to grow and multiply to form bulbs, so this is really the perfect time to grow them.
There’s fast then there’s radishes. A go-to choice for growing in autumn and winter because of the extremely quick growing time: four weeks from planting! That’s right, four weeks, maybe slightly longer depending on conditions, but it is a rapid grower. Plant in the ground and use a polytunnel to give them a consistent temperature and protection and watch them grow.
Hardy varieties of Spring onion will grow well over the autumn months. They are quite a quick cropper, in about eight weeks, so not as fast as radishes but still quick enough to grow a plentiful amount during autumn and winter. Grow under a polytunnel and you’re onto a winner. They’re also small enough to be planted as a filler crop amongst other veg.
Spinach will do well through winter. You cut what you need, and it grows again. Cut some more. And it grows again. Cut some… you get the idea. It’ll continue to produce lovely young leaves. Just ensure to remove the flowers to stop it going to seed which would affect leaf production.
Kale is easy to grow and hardy, and good in low-light conditions. Which makes it great for growing in winter in the UK! Sow in late august/early September in your polytunnel and like spinach will produce leaves throughout the winter months.
Like kale, rocket is easy to grow and hardy. It’s perfect for growing over autumn and winter to add some peppery flavour to salads. Best sown in autumn to give it enough time to grow and be enjoyed over winter. Younger leaves should be ready to harvest about four weeks from planting.
Not to be confused with the condiment, mustard is a leafy veg that does well over winter too and adds a bit more zing to the mix with its peppery flavour. Again, pick when the leaves are big enough but leave some on for the plant to keep growing.
Over Wintering Vegetables to Enjoy at Home
Now you know what some suitable winter vegetables to grow are why not give it a try yourself? Most winter vegetable plants are fully hardy and will cope well with our cold winter weather. As we know though, UK winters can be unpredictable, but thankfully there are ways to give your vegetables added protection to ensure they survive. Growing the vegetables highlighted above, you can extend the growing season considerably from summer, and ensure you not only have some lovely seasonal veg, but also have earlier producing crops than with spring plantings.