When it’s cold and dark outside, it’s not unusual to feel like you want to hibernate until spring – but if you have an interest in gardening, there’s a lot you can do over the next few months. Seeing splashes of colour in your garden can brighten up your day, and knowing you have something delicious to harvest in the New Year can be extremely comforting.
While growing seeds and plants during the colder months is more difficult than in spring or summer, there’s definitely life in the growing season yet! Here are eight things to sow and grow in the garden this autumn and winter.
Tips for growing in autumn and winter
While you can absolutely sow plants and seeds in autumn and winter, it’s important to remember that it will be a bit more challenging – and there’s also less variety. If you have a greenhouse or a polytunnel in your garden, growing things will be infinitely easier. But if you don’t, all is not lost.
For gardeners without a greenhouse, you might want to think about buying some garden fleece jackets to protect your plants from frost, hail, low temperatures and heavy winds. These can be bought from Amazon for around £12, so they certainly won’t break the bank.
Alternatively, buying a mini polythene tunnel is an even better way to protect young plants, create a warmer microclimate, and keep the cold wind out. Because these polythene tunnels help prevent moisture loss and create humidity, they produce stronger and healthier plants and allow you to grow plants that wouldn’t otherwise survive in the UK climate.
Polythene tunnels start from about £16, so if you don’t have the money or space for a greenhouse, this is definitely the next best thing!
8 things to grow and sow in autumn and winter
So what are the best plants to sow and grow over the next few months? Here are our top picks.
If you love the idea of enjoying your own homegrown peas in 2022, there’s good news: you can usually sow peas right up until the very end of November. While you won’t have actual pods of peas appear throughout the winter (that’ll happen in spring), if you sow peas now you’ll be able to pick their shoots, leaves, and tendrils. Many of the best restaurants in the UK use pea leaves and tendrils to garnish their plates – and they’re absolutely delicious in salads and sandwiches.
However, if you’re sowing peas in November, they can’t be any old peas. Pea seeds are either round or wrinkled, and it’s the round types that are hardy and can survive being sown in cold conditions.
The best types of round peas are varieties you can cover to keep warm – so that’s generally dwarf varieties. Douce Provence or Meteor are your best bet – and because Meteor only grows to 45cm high, it’s ideal for pots and balconies too.
To find out more about growing peas, have a read of the Gardener’s World guide.
2. Spring onions
Spring onions might look dainty and delicate – but don’t let looks deceive you! In spite of their appearance, spring onions are actually some of the hardiest vegetables you can grow – and even frosts and freezing temperatures won’t kill them. As the name suggests, you can plant certain varieties in late autumn or early winter and have your first crop ready to harvest by very early spring.
The best variety of spring onion to sow at this time of year is the White Lisbon, which is considered the hardiest of all – and due to its short cropping time, it’s a wise choice for new gardeners.
You might be lucky and get your first crop of spring onions just eight weeks after sowing – but if not, you can use the microgreens that appear first. These are not only packed with vitamins but have a lovely, delicate flavour and are great in salads.
To find out more about growing spring onions, have a read of this article by Thompson Morgan.
With their delicate white flowers, snowdrops symbolise the end of winter – and they’re also usually the very first bulbs of the year to bloom. You can plant snowdrops throughout late autumn and even early winter, as long as the first frost hasn’t hit yet. Unlike other flowers, snowdrops don’t do well in containers, so it’s best to get them into the soil as soon as you can.
The best way to plant snowdrops is to buy them while they’re actively growing rather than from seed; this is called planting ‘in the green’.
These incredibly hardy flowers will bloom no matter what and are tough enough to push through frozen ground, emerging beautifully through the snow. And because they’re a woodland plant, snowdrops like partial shade and moist soil – so they do especially well planted under trees and shrubs.
To find out more about growing snowdrops, have a read of this article by Gardeners World.
Garlic is a kitchen staple, and it also has many health benefits – plus, you can plant it from November anytime up until early spring.
Sowing garlic is also incredibly easy: just break open a bulb into individual cloves and plant them in rows. Because you only need around four inches in between each clove, this is a great crop to grow when you don’t have much space in your garden.
Another great thing about growing garlic is that it requires minimal care, which allows you to enjoy the festive season without worrying – although don’t forget it’s there and plant over it later!
In order for its bulbs to develop properly, garlic needs a decent period of cold weather. So while you won’t be able to eat the actual cloves until late spring or early summer, you will be able to enjoy the subtler flavours of the shoots and leaves.
To find out more about growing garlic, have a read of this guide by RHS.
5. Mustard greens
Of all the greens that can be sown and grown over winter, mustard greens are the hardiest – which means they’ll keep growing new leaves even in freezing conditions. These punchy greens are so tough they’re known for being able to spend days under a blanket of snow, and then sprout from the soil in perfect condition once the snow thaws.
When raw, mustard greens are spicy, and best used sparingly in salads. However, when you cook them, the spiciness disappears and you’re left with a delicious rich flavour, with only a very mild kick.
Another perk to growing mustard greens is that their raw spiciness is a turnoff for pests!
If you plant mustard greens in November or December, you could have your first crop in January or February.
To find out more about growing mustard greens, have a read of this article by Harvest to Table.
If you’re looking to add a splash of colour to your garden throughout the cooler months, and aren’t fussed about eating what you grow, you can plant certain flowers through the autumn and winter months. Flowers aren’t as tough as vegetables though, so most will benefit from being grown in a greenhouse – though there are exceptions.
With their bright-coloured bell-shaped flowers, fritillaria will certainly inject some vibrancy into your garden. These flowers can be planted from bulbs in late autumn and will survive the winter, even if temperatures drop below -10ºC.
When planted in November, bulbs will grow roots shortly after going into the ground, before going dormant for the coldest months, then flowering in early spring.
To find out more about growing fritillaria, have a read of this article by Gardens Illustrated.
7. Broad beans
Of all the beans, broad beans are easily the hardiest – and if you sow them in late autumn or even early winter, you’ll get your first crop next season. However, just like peas, broad beans have super tasty and nutritious shoots and leaves that are an excellent addition to salads and stir-fries (or to jazz up your dinner plate!), and many gardeners grow them for their shoots and leaves alone.
Broad beans grow best when sown into two-inch deep trenches, spaced about six inches apart. The seedlings should appear within a few weeks, though they’ll remain small until it warms up a bit in spring.
Field beans are a specific variety of broad bean that does exceptionally well throughout winter, and while their beans are smaller than regular broad beans, they’re just as delicious.
To find out more about growing broad beans, have a read of this article by Grow Veg.
8. Winter pansies
Pansies are known to be the ultimate cool weather flower, so it’s no surprise that they’re considered one of the best flowers to grow if you actually want to see blooms in the winter months. While September and October are generally considered the optimum months to plant pansies if you want them to flower for the winter season, they can also be planted in November.
Autumn and winter pansies are typically sold as bedding plants, so can be planted straight into the ground for instant colour. If you’re planting your winter pansies in late autumn, it’s best to plant more pansies than usual and plant them closer together – as this will ensure the biggest impact when they bloom!
Winter pansies should flower throughout the winter months and have a final explosion of colour at the very end of winter. If you plant pansies in December, they’ll still flower; you might just have to wait until early spring for the full bloom.
To find out more about growing winter pansies, have a read of this guide by Country Living.
We’d love to hear from you!
Are you hoping to plant some flowers or vegetables this autumn or winter? Or do you have any of your own gardening tips that you’d like to share? Join the conversation over on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.