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Expert advice

Winter crops and sowing

Winter is not the most obvious season for activity and growth in the garden. Temperature and light levels are the main concerns. Generally growth starts in plants when temperatures rise above 6°C. Our lawns often look so untidy in the cooler months because in our maritime climate most daily temperatures rise above this level allowing the grass to grow.

The greenhouse is invaluable for those wishing to continue growing as the temperature can be moderated. Cold frames and cloches can also help but in the colder months really only provide frost protection.

Some stalwart species don’t mind the cold. Winter lettuces such as ‘Arctic King’ can be grown under fleece or a simple cloche and lamb’s lettuce is also a useful addition to the winter salad plate. Seed tapes will always help, saving time and labour in spacing salads and vegetables, avoiding the need to thin out as the plants start to establish.

Summer annuals can be selected and sown – appropriate if you have heated propagators or a heated greenhouse. Seed mats shaped especially for plant pots or hanging baskets provide an easy and time saving option and Seed Developments have a range of colour schemes and species mixes available. Think about herb pots and even vegetable mixes – many species such as potatoes do well in pots rather than planted into the ground.

Try Sanguisorba officinalis – the salad burnet as a tasty option for winter salads.  Sow initially under glass although it can be transplanted outdoors once the plants establish. They will survive most frosts and snow. Broad beans are worth a try and other winter vegetables such as parsnip, sprouts, leeks and winter cabbage can be left out in the cold to provide you with warming soup or main course vegetables. Investigate the new range of seed tapes and mats now available from Seed Developments and taste the difference as you grow your own.