It would be easier these days to leave the vegetable garden to itself for the winter. But with a little effort, and perhaps a woolly hat, there is still a variety of goodies that can be sown and grown for the kitchen table.
Corn salad (lamb’s lettuce) can tolerate cold. A cold frame or a fleece tunnel cloche will improve quality. If you don’t have one they can be made quite easily, you can then add little gem, webs wonder, mizuna and mibuna to your winter repertoire. Rocket ‘sky rocket’ can be grown outside as well as Pak choi ‘Yuushai’ and Cabbage ‘Duncan’.
A load of old horse sh*t !
Our move from Dublin to the Cork countryside eight years ago was to have a bigger garden for the kids to run around in and to allow me to indulge my passion for gardening. Heavy clay soil and the fact that the previous occupants included a fat little pony trampling around the place made it quite a challenge for me.
A relative who is an expert plants woman (you know who you are Catherine!) told me early on to “work the soil”. I followed her advice and in doing so never thought that I would come to love and appreciate manure so much. We are very lucky to have a generous neighbour with horses (thanks again Willy!). So, twice a year, in autumn and spring we wheel barrow tons of well rotted horse manure across the road for our borders.
It is fantastic stuff. Every wheelbarrow load fills me with excitement knowing that my beloved plants will thrive in its organic mulchiness. It nourishes the soil, it keeps the weeds down, it locks moisture in and its rich dark hue makes everything look perfect.
If you don’t live next or near to your own manure heaven don’t despair, ‘Gee-up’ (horse manure in a bag effectively) is an excellent product and from a Cork-based company too. This is available to purchase at a wide variety of outlets.
You can keep weeds down over winter by covering any unused parts of your vegetable plot with old carpet, or you can grow green manure crops on your bare patch. These crops are grown mainly to benefit the soil rather than for food and will do wonders in this regard. I just bought some mustard seeds at Nangles Nursuries which will do the job beautifully. However, there are plenty of other green crops to choose from such as caliente clover, red clover and Italian rye so treat your bare patches to these little guys over the winter and they will all save you a fortune on compost!
If you are surrounded by some trees you can make your own mulch too over the next few months by bagging fallen leaves, a refuse sack will do the trick. Leave the bags,tied at the top, in a dry spot for a year and you will have your own perfect leaf mould completely free, so don that hat and out you go !