We all love the taste of fresh veggies and never more so than at Christmas, but how can we grow our own in time for the festive season? We asked Lilidh Matthews, Buyer of Vegetable & Herb plants at Wyevale Garden Centres for some growing tips and she was delighted to help.
From sprouts to parsnips we’ve got you sorted.
How to Grow Your Own for Christmas!
“Growing Vegetables for Christmas is about a little bit of skill but mostly good timing! Planning ahead what vegetables you want to eat at Christmas needs to be done at this time of year. Firstly the most important thing is to think about what you want to eat, there’s no point growing Brussel Sprouts if nobody in the family likes them!
Wyevale Garden Centres has noticed increased popularity in plants that grow and produce a harvest into the late autumn and throughout the winter and as such have really designed the range to respond to the season. This has grown in popularity each year as people take more interest in growing vegetables in the winter and not just the summer!
When in the middle of summer, your Christmas dinner isn’t the first thought that normally comes to mind, but the thought of sitting down to a plate of vegetables that you have grown from scratch has a discerning sense of satisfaction. It’s something that can be achieved no matter what space you have, because there are plenty of crops that can be grown indoors with the correct conditions. There are so many varieties that can be grown in this country too so if you fancy the challenge of growing your own Christmas dinner then now is the time to start planting! Potatoes, Cabbages, Sprouts, Parsnips, or perhaps a side of your own grown salad – yes lettuce in the winter!
Christmas Potato: The Easiest
The easiest vegetable to grow for Christmas is the potato and it is the most popular for the table! The Potato “Charlotte” takes 12 weeks from planting to harvest so if you plant in late August and early September then you can make sure that you have all of your Christmas parties covered. These can also be grown indoors or out! If planting in a container you need to ensure it is at least 30cm deep and wide and this gives you the versatility of moving the plant indoors and out. If planting outdoors, you might need to insulate the soil against frost by covering with straw. However, with care, the potatoes will store well in the ground until needed at Christmas – much longer than any shop bought packet of potatoes will last!
- Potato “Charlotte”
Brussel Sprouts: The Most Planning
Now for one of the slightly more complicated crops due to the increased planning needed and it also happens to be the most debated vegetable at the dining table – perhaps not on everyone’s lists of favourites! Brussel Sports can be enjoyed (or not!) either steam cooked, or mixed with a little cream and chopped bacon. However if you are not a fan then it is lucky that we are past the best chance to plant this for Christmas this year. If you are sorely disappointed then for next year’s planning, Brussel Sprouts need to be planted in the ground by July, however if you are determined, you may still find some young plants in garden centres – make sure to water them in well! This is a plant that needs a bit of protection from birds and butterflies who cannot resist! They look great as a plant and you harvest the lowest sprouts first by snapping them off the stem, when they are tightly closed, firm and the size of a walnut. The best part is that you can even leave them out in the frost as this improves the flavour! At the end of the season the sprout tops can be harvested and eaten.
Cabbage: The Most Reliable
And finally the most reliable veggie! Planting in July to August, you will get a harvest for Winter and Spring. Brassicas love to be drenched in water – or “puddled in” – when planted out. Place the plant in a deep hole and fill with water a couple of times before covering with soil and firming down with your heels. If you’re attempting to grow in a container, choose a miniature variety.
Spring cabbages, plant: October and November, harvest: April and May
Summer cabbages, plant: May and June, harvest: June to October
Autumn cabbages, plant: May and June, harvest: September to November
Winter cabbages, plant: June and July, harvest: November to March
- Cabbage Hispi (Sweetheart type)
- Cabbage Duchy
- Cabbage Durham Early
Herbs for Stuffing: The Most Versatile
Herbs increase in popularity throughout the end of the summer and early autumn as everyone plants up ready to prepare for winter roasts and stews. They are really easy to look after and if you plant them into a container rather than in the flower bed then you can bring this inside during the winter to protect from frosts and for easy picking! They will grow a little slower over the winter, so you could always dry the herbs when you take cuttings in the summer or use them fresh. The most popular herbs for Stuffing include:
Stuffings are very simple to make with either fresh or dried herbs finely chopped up with onion and mixed with butter and breadcrumbs before baking!
Something Different: The Most Surprising
Or how about trying something different? You’d be surprised about which other plants you could grow throughout the season – how about producing a homegrown salad for the Christmas dinner table? Many people are surprised about how well salads can grow throughout the Winter and the best part is that they grow quickly – the key is to plant them in the autumn in a sheltered, sunny spot.
There are two types of salad crops, cut-and-come-again such as Lettuce Butterhead which are perfect for what you want a few salad leaves off a window sill pot, or even grow your own Iceberg lettuce where you take the whole lettuce as it forms a lettuce heart. In a greenhouse or on your window sill you can grow these throughout the winter!
- Lettuce Greenhouse Butterhead
- Lettuce Greenhouse Iceberg
- Lettuce Winter Gem
Our thanks to Lilidh and all the team at Wyevale Garden Centres for their help. We’ll certainly be making good use of all these simple growing tips that will make our Christmas dinner veggies taste fresh and delicious.
Will you be growing your own vegetables and herbs for this year’s Christmas table? You can get in touch with us using our comments section or social media icons.