Posted 17th October by Peter Byrne
With the temperature dropping and the nights drawing in, many of use are hanging up our garden gloves following a fruitful summer. However, autumn doesn't have to mark the end of the season and your enjoyment of growing your own
A little planning and creativity will allow you to defy winter, and grow beautiful organic produce all-year round...
1 Feel the heat...
Even the most experienced gardeners will need a helping hand in winter. If you have a greenhouse, a thermometer can track the temperatures, letting you know when you will have to intervene if the conditions become less favourable for specific plants such as artichokes, tomatoes and peppers.
Adding a gas or electric heater will help you get through cold snaps, and the majority come with a thermostat too, as an added bonus. Ensure you open your vents regularly, to keep the air moving. This will deter fungal diseases such as grey mould (botrytis cinerea) and powdery mildew (erysiphaceae).
Cold frames are worth considering too, acting as a halfway house between a greenhouse and outside planting. Multiple layers of horticultural fleece can be laid down on top of your plants to keep them frost-free and warm, but be sure to peg it down properly on windy days.
2 Hedge your bets
Select a variety of 'winter' vegetables, which are hardy and guaranteed to cope in cold conditions. Options include onions, shallots, garlics and leeks, which are capable of virtually looking after themselves through the winter months.
Cold winter temperatures will stimulate sugar accumulation in carrots and parsnips, which act as a natural antifreeze. Perpetual spinach and kale are all very resilient, making excellent 'cut and come again' winter crops. Why not plant broad beans and peas in autumn, and be the envy of your neighbours when you get an extra early crop in spring.
3 Invite them into your home
Choose to grow some of your plants inside - this will allow you to reap the rewards through winter. Now only will you get fresh, organic produce, but plants will add colour to your interiors, and accoutring to NASA research, can cleanse the air in your home by neutralising harmful toxins found in furniture, household products and decorating materials.
Window sills, if properly sealed from drafts, will make a great place for your fruit and veg plants over winter. However, you should consider purchasing grow lights, which are ideal for seed starting. Make sure you choose "full-spectrum" lights as they ensure every plant will get the type of light it needs for maximum growth. Central heating can dry out plants, so keep an eye on the moisture levels, and be sure to use soil which is designed for indoor planting - outside soil can contain weed seeds or pests.
4 The early bird catches the worm
While spring may seem a long way off, it's a good time to start planning what you're going to grow next season, from the comfort of your sofa. It's also wise to consider what new equipment you should prioritise saving for, or redesigning your outside space to increase growing power.
One way to get ahead will be to make your compost from fallen leaves - place the damp leaves in a plastic bin liner, tie a knot at the top and add a few air holes. Then, leave the bag in a sheltered position outside for between six months and a year.
Tips courtesy of The Greenhouse People
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