The winter garden holds bright berries, rich evergreens and a wealth of hearty veg: including carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks and – the most divisive of all vegetables – sprouts.
Traditionally winter is not thought of as the most bountiful of seasons, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Robust plants, such as fir trees and holly, become more vibrant during wintertime, you can harvest starchy and sweet winter vegetables from November all the way through to February, plus, this is the perfect time to get started on your summer crop.
Looking after your garden during the colder months just takes a little preparation and a hardy gardener. Here, we’ve gathered some tips and tricks on autumn/winter gardening with help from The RHS and from Raymond Blanc too, in reference to his gardens at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and his gorgeous garden restaurant, Jardin Blanc.
A spring clean… well, a winter clean
Now the frost is beginning to bite, it’s time to get your garden in order: move tender plants to a greenhouse or conservatory, cover salads and leafy plants with cloches, mow lawns and trim hedges – it may be your last chance for a little while!
Head Vegetable Gardener at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Jen, suggests that, if you have any empty space left in the garden, consider planting green manures. “These will suppress the weeds over winter, provide cover crop to prevent the leeching of nutrients and, when spring comes, you can dig it in to add organic matter to the soil.”
Take care of local wildlife by putting out fat blocks, seed mixes and cat food to help them survive the winter. This will also encourage birds, frogs, hedgehogs etc. to stay in the garden, repaying you your kindness by eradicating garden pests in the coming year.
Waste not, want not
Setup a composting system: use fallen leaves, cut grass, waste vegetables and paper waste to produce rich organic compost that will add nutrients to the garden soil.
Despite British wintertime being synonymous with rain, its important to keep your plants well watered - as during the season’s coldest points rain water will turn to frost before its absorbed by the flora.
Sprouting broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, winter cabbage and leeks planted in late spring or early summer will be ready to eat soon, as they take several months to reach maturity. They stand well through frosty weather and can be harvested throughout the winter months. Potatoes too, planted in mid to late summer, will be ready for winter harvests.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons’s Jen says it’s not too late to sow some seeds. “Try autumn planting varieties of peas, broad beans, onions, garlic and shallots for a nice early crop next spring.”
Though, if you’re looking for slightly more instant gratification, Jen suggests sowing hardy salad leaves in the greenhouse e.g. oriental mustard, winter lettuces and hardier herbs such as parsley and coriander. These will provide cut-and-come-again leaves through the autumn, and winter if covered with a cloche, cold frame or fleece.