Winter can be a tricky time as it’s colder and darker and the weather tends to be dull, windy and rainy, but for gardeners there’s still plenty that can be done during December, January and February.
Gardening isn’t a hobby exclusively for the warm weather, so if you’ve got green-fingers there’s no need to wait until spring to use them. There are plenty of plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables which can either survive being planted outside during the cold, or can be planted indoors where it’s still warm during the winter season.
Here at NationalWorld we’ve done some research with two of the most trusted names in the gardening industry, the Royal Horticultural Society and BBC Gardeners’ World to discover which are the best things you can grow right now. Below you will find a list of colourful plants which will brighten up your garden on the darkest days of the year, and also a list of foods which can be grown now ready to bring delicious home-grown crops to your table in the coming weeks and months.
Here’s everything you need to know, all in one place.
What plants and flowers can you grow in winter?
There are various plants and flowers that you can grow in the winter. Here’s a handy list of just what you can grow and when:
Sunflowers: You can start sowing sunflower seeds indoors in March, but it is best to wait until they have started to grow in to good sturdy plants of around 30cm tall before moving them and planting outside in April or May, say the RHS. If you want to plant sunflower seeds directly into your garden you should wait until April to do this. Sunflowers are an annual plant that will flower in August.
Daffodils: Daffodils should be planted in early autumn, ideally September, say the RHS. They will then flower each spring, with little or no attention. They grow well in containers, borders and grass, which means you can grow them no matter what space you have, and they’re available in a wide range of flower shapes, forms and sizes.
Winter honeysuckle: As the name suggests, the winter honeysuckle is a plant that will grow well throughout the colder months. The BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine states that this white flower will bloom between December and February.
Christmas rose: Despite its name, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine says that this flower doesn’t often bloom in time for the festive season. Instead, you are more likely to see this large white flower appear in gardens in January and stay until March.
Pansies: Pansies are known for being a hardy bedding plant, and certain breeds flower each and every year between November and March according to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine. It’s important to check the details of the plants or seeds you are buying to check that the ones you have chosen will grow in winter.
Snowdrops: Snowdrops are one of the first types of flowers we see bloom each and every year. There’s a variety of different types to grow, ranging from single- to doubled-flowered types, say BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, but the arrival of each one signifies that the end of winter is coming.
Winter heather: The clue is also in the name with this type of plant. BBC Gardeners’ World say that the winter heather, which is typically pink or purple, will bring some much needed colour to a garden when the weather turns colder. It typically flowers in February and March.
What foods can you grow in winter?
There are also many foods that you can grow in the winter, including fruit, vegetables and seeds. Here’s another helpful list of what you can grow and when:
Potatoes: Potatoes are classified as being either earlies or maincrops, according to the RHS. Early varieties are ready to harvest much sooner than maincrops and are what you’ll know as new potatoes. Maincrop varieties, which you may know as all-rounder, baking or even old potatoes, are in the ground a lot longer. They produce a larger harvest and bigger potatoes. You should plant earlies from late March to mid April, followed by maincrop which should be planted in mid to late April. Earlies will then be ready to be harvested from June through August, while maincrops will be ready from late August to October.
Onions: Onions are usually grown from sets, known as immature bulbs. This is the easiest and fastest way to grow them, and will produce an earlier crop. They are usually planted in spring, from mid-March to mid-April, according to the RHS. Some varieties are suitable for planting in October to mid March. Autumn-planted sets are ready to harvest by early to mid-summer, while spring-sown or spring-planted onions are ready in late summer to early autumn.
Brussel sprouts: Brussel sprouts can be sown from early March to early April. According to the RHS, if you sow them early you’ll get the best crop. Early varieties can be harvested from August. Start picking the lowest sprouts first, when they are the size of a walnut, firm and still tightly closed. Snap them off with a sharp downward tug. At the end of the season, in December of January, the sprout tops can be harvested too.
Aubergines: Aubergines should be sown from January to April so that they can be planted in May and June, and then harvested in August and September, according to the RHS. The seeds should be sown early in the year in warm conditions indoors, even in an airing cupboard. They can be grown outdoors also, but if this is the case you must delay sowing until the beginning of March, after the last frost of the year.
Broad beans: Broad beans are usually sown in late winter, both indoors and outdoors with some protection, and they are easy to grow from seed. They can be sown in October, November, February, March, April and May. They can then be harvested in June and July, say the RHS.
Cabbages: Certain cabbages can be grown in winter, but you need to be sure you have the right variety. The RHS recommends that the ‘Advantage’ AGM, ‘Duncan’ AGM, ‘Spring Hero’ AGM, ‘Tundra’ AGM and ‘Marabel’ AGM are the most winter-hardy varieties of cabbage. They can be sown in winter ready for harvest in the spring and summer.
Garlic: Garlic thrives in the cold and so it produces the best crop if it is planted in late autumn or early winter. In fact, most varieties need one to two months at 0–10°C or 32–50°F, for the best possible bulb development. There are two main types of garlic; hardneck and softneck, and both are best planted in winter. The RHS advises that you should buy named varieties of garlic from a garden centre as garlic plants from a supermarket could carry diseases and may not be unsuitable for the British climate.
Leek: Leeks are easy to grow in the winter. They are usually sown in containers or a seed bed in February, March and April, then moved outdoors to grow between May and July before being harvested from August onwards.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes can be sown in the winter, ready to be harvested in time for delicious summer salads. They do need warm conditions to grow though, so to have an effective harvest from winter seeds then you’ll have to plant indoors or in a greenhouse. If growing outside is your only option, then the RHS advice is to wait until late March or early April.