Healthy home-grown taste
It might seem like it's too early to be talking about winter vegetables, but now is the time to plan for those cooler months in the kitchen garden.
During the hot summer months, winter is the furthest thing from our minds, but life is a garden filled with delicious home-grown vegetables that you can start planning now. Some basic planning in January and February will reap great rewards for you when you feel like some winter vegetables for delicious warming soups. Top vegetable gardening expert, Bill Kerr, has the following advice: "You need to synchronise sowing your winter veggies as they all mature at different times. The cool conditions of Highveld winters help keep vegetables edible for months, whereas in summer they would only remain viable for a very short period of time. The next couple of months are therefore important planting months."
These vegetables are delicious in soups, roasts and thinly sliced in salads. Seed can be sown from January to April. Leeks can remain in seedbeds for two months and should then be planted in good soil and fertilised well. Fortunately, they have an exceptionally long harvesting season as they can be eaten whilst they are still small or when they are mature. Make sure that you sow a generous amount of seed.
Swiss chard can be harvested quite soon after planting and, like leeks, can be used over an extended period. If you have a frosty garden, cover the plants with a frost cover to maintain good production throughout winter.
These can be grown throughout the year, when the climate permits. "On the Highveld, February is the most important sowing month as the yield and quality is exceptionally high at this time," says Bill. "If you delay sowing until March, you will experience rather disappointing results. The crop sown in February should be ready for harvest after 100 days and will remain edible for many months," he adds. Make sure you space your carrots carefully - the best is to have about 100-120 plants per square metre. These will grow to the best size and then remain in this condition until required.
Cabbage seed must be sown as soon as possible within the next two weeks. The tiny seedlings will be ready for transplanting after about six weeks and should be planted in the desired spot before the beginning of April. The most successful variety for winter harvesting is 'Grandslam', which can take a lot of frost.
Wait about a month, until March, before you sow beet. This sowing month will provide abundant, good quality leaves, an added bonus for those who enjoy eating beet leaves instead of spinach. If you choose the variety 'Crimson Globe', the leaves will be even more vigorous and the root quality good. The correct spacing for beets is 60-80 plants per square metre.
This is a fast-growing crop and, if you are considering sowing leeks and turnips at the same time, the turnips will be finished when the leeks are ready. You can sow turnips from late March through to April. Turnip tops are also excellent for soups and qualify as another soup ingredient if you pick them fresh from the garden.