Winter is the season for buying and planting some of the most interesting edible plants. These are the ones that are sold as roots, crowns or bulbs in the cooler months.
These are tropical plants that do well in warmer areas. The dormant roots are planted in late winter in warm regions, or in spring in cooler areas after the soil has warmed up. In cold regions they can be grown in a glasshouse but they will need plenty of space. Feed with Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser through the growing season and keep well watered. Harvest roots in autumn.
Both are used in cooking and, increasingly, for their medicinal qualities.
This is a traditional European favourite that does particularly well in cool climates. Plant the roots out in a sunny spot into soil that’s been improved with some manure or compost and some Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser pellets.
Keep well watered, especially in the early stages of growth, and prune off excess shoots, leaving about three of the strongest. In good conditions horseradish will develop a thick, fleshy, pungent taproot that can be harvested next autumn or early winter. Dig out each year, trying to remove all of the roots from the soil, as it will grow from the smallest piece and can become a bit of a weed.
Replant healthy roots to start a new crop. Grate harvested roots and mix with vinegar and mustard to make a pungent sauce. Horseradish is related to cabbages so watch for caterpillars in summer and autumn. Treat with Nature’s Way Caterpillar Killer (Dipel).
Asparagus is a slow and long lasting crop that is worth growing because it tastes so good when freshly cut. Deep, rich soil to which some Yates Hydrangea Pinking Liquid Lime & Dolomite has been added is ideal. Plant the clump of roots, called a ‘crown’, at the bottom of a 20cm-plus trench.
Gradually fill in as the shoots grow. Clean out old tops when they die down in winter and don’t begin to harvest new spears until the second year. If you want white asparagus, hill soil up to exclude light from emerging spears.
Look after your asparagus and you’ll be able to continue harvesting it for many years.
Rhubarb also grows from a crown. Dip the crown into a solution of Yates Liquid Copper before planting into pre-prepared soil in a sunny spot with the top (called the eye) at ground level.
Feed well through the growing season with regular applications of Yates Thrive All Purpose Liquid Plant Food. A couple of times a year spread some Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser pellets as a side dressing.
Begin harvesting stalks – by pulling, rather than cutting – when the clump is well established, but go gently at first. Watch for fungal diseases and use Yates Liquid Copper again if necessary. Stalks will be a better red if the plants are mature, if they’re in a cooler climate and if they’re fed a high potassium fertiliser such as Yates Thrive Roses & Flowers Liquid Plant Food.
These can be easily grown from the knobbly tubers that are sold as winter vegetables. They grow into tall plants that flower with bright yellow daisies in late summer. Nipping off the flowers at bud stage is said to improve tuber quality but, even if almost totally neglected, the plants will produce a satisfactory harvest each winter. The greatest difficulty comes in cleaning the soil off the bumpy surface. Tubers can be baked, boiled or added to winter stews.
True shallots are small, brown-skinned bulblets with a mild onion flavour that are ideal for stews and casseroles. Bulbs are planted in mid winter and the crop harvested in mid summer.
Homegrown garlic’s creamy flavour adds a special touch to many dishes. Plant the cloves and, after the leaves appear, begin feeding with a liquid plant food such as Yates Thrive Vegie & Herb Liquid Plant Food. Watch out for aphids on the leaves – control with Nature’s Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray, which has no withholding period – and water evenly throughout the growing season. Pull up the plants – bulbs and all – after the leaves yellow off in mid-summer and harden them in the sun for a few days before hanging them to store in a dry, airy place.