When the season cools off, the garden hots up! Late summer may seem like the wrong time of year to begin gardening, but so many of our delicious herbs and vegetables actually prefer cooler weather or will co-operate fully if you act now. The secret is to get them in the ground while there is still heat in the soil to rocket them off to the fast start they need.
Who doesn’t enjoy a crisp fresh salad in winter – and the way to ensure it is to sow the seed of winter spinach right now. If you live in warmer regions, choose the likes of ‘Winter Queen’ but if you’re growing in frosty spots, don’t settle for anything less than ‘Andromeda F1 hybrid’. A truly hardy yet tender leaf, Andromeda is incredibly sweet and very resistant to bolting in cold weather. In severe climates, pop a cloche over it to improve the condition of its leaves.
If you’ve ever tried to grow coriander in summer, only to watch it romp to seed before you can harvest the leaves, you’ll understand why this pungent herb, so essential in Indian cuisine, prefers cooler temperatures. In warm regions, sow it in succession from now until early spring. In cooler regions, sow every two weeks from now until mid-March, and again in early spring.
Asian leaf greens
Mizuna is a tender green that happily sees the winter through, and its frilly, slim, leaves look for all the world like lettuce. Mibuna, a cousin to mizuna is equally delicate, and the two are an excellent combo to sow right now. Add into the mix tatsoi and Chinese broccoli and you’re good to go! Just remember, these plants are all brassica so be sure not to grow them in ground that has recently supported other members of this family such as broccoli and cauli).
Celery with a difference
Its botanical name is a mouthful – and so is the plant itself! Leaf celery (Apium gravel lens var. secalinum Alef.) also goes by the name of Chinese Celery or Nan Ling, and is a cool-season staple. Less fussy than stem celery (the winter vegetable we are more familiar with), this flavoursome green is all leaf with tiny stems and is perfect as a cut-and-come-again edible in soups and salads. Pop the seed in the soil while you think of it.
Even if you don’t have a greenhouse, you can still enjoy crisp lettuce in the cooler months. Canasta is a red-green, semi-hearting lettuce that knows how to see the winter through. If you live in regions with severe winters, give this survivor a cloche to hide under, and you’ll be harvesting until June and July.
Herbs bring winter dishes to life – but when we look for them in the winter garden, many of the most flavoursome have shut up shop! Ensure you have access to the likes of thyme, marjoram and lemon grass by potting up rooted pieces of plant and popping them on a sunny window ledge indoors. Unless you live in regions with severe winters, rooted pieces of herb can also be planted out in the greenhouse as soon as the tomato vines are spent.