Kim Stoddart explains how to best prepare the vegetable garden for the months ahead…
It’s that time of year, as the daylight hours draw in thick and fast, when thoughts turn by default to wood burners, warming food and thick, woolly clothing. Traditional advice has always dictated the bedding down of the vegetable garden as it enters a stage of seasonal slumber.
The emphasis is on tidying away this year’s spent foliage before leaving it all well alone till the following spring. Yet, a veg patch can be really vulnerable to the elements with our increasingly mild, wet winters, so affording some protection against the risk of soil fertility being effectively washed away is absolutely key.
Also, it is possible to leave some produce in the ground for continued pickings which is great for further money saving and just enjoyable to do. So… with all of this in mind here are my top tips for a more resilient and productive vegetable garden this winter:
- Don’t dig it over, whatever you do, as this damages the structure of the soil and leaves it more vulnerable to the elements. It’s better to have something growing if possible in your beds as this boosts the ground’s ability to hold and retain more water than it would be able to cope with otherwise as roots bind the soil together. Even non-invasive weeds would be preferable to nothing at all.
- You can leave some crops in the ground for further picking opportunities over winter and into spring. Any knobbly or slightly nibbled beetroot can be left in situ for lovely spinach-like leaf harvests. Fennel can also grow back the following year if given the opportunity to grow on, chive also. Parsley plants are vitamin C packed resilient vegetable garden heroes and will grow on to flower and set seed in their second year if given the opportunity – for lots of low-maintenance seedlings for free.
- Late sowings of peas and beans can give you a head start on crop growth the following spring.
- Mulch your soil to afford protection with materials you are likely to have to hand on the smallholding. From a thin (one inch) layer of leaves, wood chip or comfrey, to sheep wool, seaweed, even cardboard will all help protect and feed soil over the months ahead.
Picture caption: Kim letting her vegetable garden break down naturally for extra over-winter resilience
This article extract was taken from in the November issue of The Country Smallholder magazine, available to buy here.
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