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‘Frosts can be good for some veg,’ says Gayton gardener Jamie Marsh

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh discusses frosts...

After the scare of a frost here in Gayton last week, I had to think of what is left on the allotment which would be ruined if it catches the first winter chills.

There’s still sweet corn I need to harvest, which will not cope at all, but root vegetables like beetroot and carrots are OK to be left in the ground and will be fine with light frosts – if there are going to be prolonged periods of below zero temperatures, mulching with straw or frost fleece will keep them in good condition. They store better undisturbed in the soil and pulled up as and when needed.

Gardener Jamie Marsh
Gardener Jamie Marsh

Chard is a great vegetable to grow over winter, it’s very hardy and will be fine with our frosts. The leaves might get a bit shabby but will still taste as good.

On the subject of frost and the taste of vegetables, parsnips, swede and turnips definitely taste better after they have had a cold spell. This is because the frost freezes the naturally occurring waters inside the plant which causes it to stress, which in turn makes the plant produce more sugars to prevent it freezing. It also means it becomes sweeter.

I like to try and grow as much as I possibly can through the winter, as you might have gathered, but there will definitely be some beds which have nothing in them. This practice is not actually very good for the soil.

So sowing green manure is a fantastic thing to do while you’ve not actually got anything growing in the beds. Green manure is basically a crop you can sow in your empty growing spaces which will benefit the soil in several ways.

Firstly, it’s a great weed suppressor, weeds will struggle to grow through the densely sown manure, it also stops precious nutrients from being washed away from the soil by heavy rains

Then there’s the roots, burying down deep in the soil, stopping it getting too compacted from the harsh weather, and in the case of some of the green manures you can choose from, lots of them are legumes (pea, broad bean, soya bean, clover and cowpea) which have a great trick up there sleeve, in being able to draw nitrogen out of the air, and transfer it through their roots and fix it into the soil.

So to recap, any bare soil you might have, sow with a green manure now while the soil is still warm, and let it grow through the autumn and winter. A few weeks before you want to plant in that particular space, you can either dig it straight in or cut it down with shears and let it wilt. Then dig it in. In my case, because I practice the No Dig method, I cut it down and leave it on the top and mulch it over with compost, then you are ready to get your new seedlings planted.

If you have any questions about my allotment, email me at jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com

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