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Growing in the winter

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It’s high summer and your vegetable plot is inordinately productive. For the vast majority of grow-your-owners, May to September represents delicious abundance, while October to early spring implies miserly dearth. To understand that this is not the case takes a leap of faith and a commitment, but trust me: this gardening graduation from fair-weather, sun-kissed hobbyist to rosy-cheeked, thermal-donned buccaneer will reward you well. Crinkled savoy cabbages and Tuscan kales of the deepest emerald green, succulent spears of purple sprouting broccoli, crunchy, sweet, finger-sized carrots and plump leeks are all easily within your reach. Is there a catch? Well, only that you need to act now to reap the benefits later.

Hardy leaves provide wonderful ingredients: rocket, landcress, mizuna, komatsuna, mustard, winter purslane, corn salad (lamb’s lettuce), endive, chicory and radicchio – your culinary repertoire won’t know what has hit it. Hardy salads thrive in cool, wet weather, but it’s too late to calls for inspectors sow them in autumn if you plan to crop them outside. Follow the same guidelines for sowing carrots and give them a good dousing in times of drought. Covering them with a glass or rigid plastic cloche in late October keeps them soft and palatable right through till they run to flower in April.

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