Now’s the time to start planning next year’s winter veg

Skimmia 'Rubella' grown for its attractive flower buds (S)
Skimmia 'Rubella' grown for its attractive flower buds (S)

Discover a selection of seasonal vegetables, the perfect winter evergreen for the garden and fruit tree care this week by Martin Fish - Show director, Harrogate Flower Shows.

Vegetable growing is as popular now as it has ever been and recently while visiting a gardening event I was told by one of the UK’s largest seed companies that sales of vegetables seeds is still growing year on year.

However, what he did say was that the majority of sales tend to be on summer vegetables and salads.

That may be down to the fact that some people prefer to garden just in the summer months or it could be that they don’t realise just how many wonderful winter vegetables there are.

By growing a selection of different types of winter crops you can easily be self- sufficient in fresh vegetables from October through until next April.

Vegetables crops such as winter cabbages, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, leeks, Swiss Chard, parsnips and broccoli are all very easy to grow and hardy, so will withstand very frosty weather.

In fact many winter vegetables are said to taste better when they have been subjected to some frost.

Although we harvest these vegetables through the winter months they are started into growth in spring and early summer from seed sown in trays or directly into the garden.

If you haven’t grown a variety of tasty winter produce in your garden this year think about growing some for next year.

The seed catalogues are all out now, so over the dark winter nights you can start planning your vegetable plot for 2014.

Readers’ Questions

Maureen from Ripon has emailed me with a picture of a plant she has been given, without a name label. She would like to know what it is and where to plant it?

The plant on your photograph is Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ which is a low growing evergreen shrub.

They are very popular at this time of the year because of their attractive deep red flower buds at the tips of the shoots.

The flower buds remain closed all through the winter and in spring they open into small white, scented flowers.

Skimmia ‘Rubella’ can be planted into the garden in well-drained soil that is neutral or slightly acid. If you plant in chalky soils the normally dark green foliage turns yellow and the plant will be stunted.

Skimmia also prefer a little protection from mid-day sun, so plant in semi shade.

Alternatively you can grow the plant in a large container where it will be perfectly happy as long as you feed and water regularly in dry weather. Where your garden soil is sticky clay, growing in pots is the best way as skimmia often struggles to grow in heavy, wet soils.

Jobs for the week

Any gardening tools that you are not going to use through the winter can be given a good clean to protect them from rusting.

Rub metal work down with an oily cloth and apply linseed oil to wooden handles.

Check fruit trees such as apples and plums and remove any mummified fruits hanging on the branches to help prevent diseases next year.

Stop watering indoor cacti to give them a winter rest.