We live in an increasingly short-term, instant gratification world, but when it comes to growing food to eat during the winter that doesn’t really cut it. Although there are things you can grow to eat now, your options will be much wider if you can manage some planning for the future.

Long-range planning
The traditional winter crops – Jerusalem artichokes, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, kale, parsnips and leeks, all need a long time in the ground. For a harvest in winter 2012/13 you need to be thinking about Jerusalem artichokes now, and the rest in spring – they have to be planted out next summer. And while you’re there, consider Japanese onions, garlic and broad beans that are all put in the ground in autumn and winter for harvests the following year.

Mid-range planning
In the heat of the summer it’s hard to think about winter, but that’s exactly what you should be doing if you want to grow nice leafy vegetables for autumn and winter harvests. Midsummer through to the end of September is the window for sowing Oriental vegetables like mizuna, tatsoi, pak choi and Chinese cabbage – all cool weather plants that will feed you in the autumn and through into the winter if you can give them a bit of shelter. Parsley, leaf beet and chard are good performers now too, and if you bung in some Welsh onions you’ll have perennial onion leaves to use like spring onions nearly all year round.

Short-range planning
If winter has caught you unprepared, or you’ve got everything else covered and want to grow more, then bring your gardening indoors. On a well-lit windowsill you can grow herbs though the winter (chives, parsley, mints, even basil if the temperature doesn’t drop too low), and sow pea seeds to grow your own peashoots. And there’s sprouting in general to bring you beansprouts and more fresh salad greens, and if you have space for a little planter you could still grow cut-and-come-again salad leaves, although growth will be slow until the light levels start to climb in February.

What are you eating, and growing, this winter?

This blog challenge is over for the time being, but it has been fun so look for it again in the future :)