Time to plan your autumn and winter veggie garden

Get set for March, the time to sow and plant autumn and winter veggies for yummy stews, soups and other comfort food.

Take heart, cooler days are hopefully around the corner, which means that there’s no time to lose when it comes to planning your autumn and winter veggie crop.

It can be quite daunting. There’s cabbages galore, cauliflower, kale  and broccoli, not to mention beetroot, carrots and turnips, all the leafy greens including Asian greens and an array of lettuce, not to forget garden peas and broad beans.

A quick, and easy way to get going is to browse through online catalogues and order seed online. One such supplier is Gro-Pak that set up an online service during the early days of Covid-19. It supplies seed for compact veggies for containers and small spaces, as well as heirloom and open pollinated varieties. Seed is dispatched every working day so that gardeners can order seed as they need it.

When browsing through veggies online it is easy to get over-enthusiastic, says Gro-Pak’s  Kathy Varney and her advice is to stick with what you like to eat and what grows best in your type of soil.

To help you make that shortlist, here are four  ‘edible’ categories with suggestions for the appropriate veggies:

Veggies for soups, stews and roasts.

Root veggies like beetroot (for roasting), carrots, parsnips  and turnips are ideal for slow-cooked, earthy dishes because they absorb the flavours during slow cooking and are hearty and filling. Try these:

Carrot Cape Market is a sweet, cylindrical, medium to large carrot for roasting or slow cooking. It is harvestable from 90 days onwards and can stay in the ground in cooler weather. Carrot Amsterdam or Carrot Sweetheart are both baby carrots equally good for roasting and stews, as well as a healthy snack.

Beetroot Chioggia Guardsmark is an Italian heirloom with candy-striped interior and is harvestable within 60 days of germination. Plant in free-draining, light soil in full sun.

Turnip Purple top white globe’ is a quick growing autumn veggie for containers as well as in the garden. Harvest from 60 days and the younger the turnip the sweeter it is.


Veggies for stir-fries

Stir-fries make use of veggies that are nutritious, crunchy and zesty such as Tatsoi and mustard greens, Chinese cabbage Michilli, julienned carrots, spring onions ‘White Lisbon’, celery, baby spinach and kale. Try these:

Baby spinach ‘Matador’ has rounded, soft green leaves with a mild flavour. The first leaves are pickable within 35 days. Also good for salads. Succession sow every two weeks for a continuous supply of juicy green leaves.

Simply Salad Wonder Wok mix is grown from multi-pellet that produces a tasty, good-looking mix of Asian greens with mustards, kale and Pak choi that can be grown in a container. Gardeners can harvest every three weeks by cutting back to 5cm and regrow several times for more fresh salad.

Chinese cabbage Michilli is an upright growing cylindrical cabbage with dark outer leaves and white inner leaves that have a tangy yet sweet flavour. It can be used in stir fries, as a slaw and even roasted. It is harvestable within 80-90 days.


Veggies for winter salads and sides

Winter and salad greens supply the greens (phytonutrients) that are so essential to our health in winter, and which our bodies crave. These include Swiss chard, spinach, kale and lettuce, which is regarded as a summer crop but grows best and tastes sweeter in autumn. Try these:

Simply Salad Kale Storm is supplied in multi-pellet form and contains a mix of different kale varieties in an attractive mix of textures and colours, including  purple, green and light blue. The height and spread is up to 60cm. Harvest every three weeks by cutting back to 5cm. The plants will regrow several times. Feed with a liquid fertiliser after each cut.

Lettuce Gourmet Salad Blend is a spicy mix includes rocket, mustard greens and an assortment of lettuces in an array of colours, shapes, textures and tastes. Good for salads and garnishes.

Lettuce ‘little Gem’ is a dwarf, compact growing Cos Lettuce that is quick to mature. It produces crisp, sweet, medium-sized hearts. It is resistant to root aphid and its crisp leaves are perfect for salads and sandwiches.


Veggies for vegans (and everyone else)

Protein-rich veggies such as ‘Greenfeast’ garden peas and ‘Aguadulce’ broad beans are excellent sources of plant protein. Garden peas head the list of most popular winter veggies because they are tastier, crunchier and more nutritious than any frozen version. Sweetest when eaten raw, they can be steamed, added to salads, stews, stir-fries and soups.

‘Greenfeast’ is a climbing pea that needs staking/support, and produces a heavy crop of large, well-filled deep green pods. Plant in deeply dug, fertile soil enriched with compost and well-rotted manure. Water well at the base of the plant throughout the growing period and especially when flowering.

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