We all know we should eat a variety of fruit and veg to get our five-a-day, and they can be frozen, canned and dried, but how about freshly picked? So fresh, in fact, that you’ve sowed the seeds, nurtured them from scratch and whooped with delight at the first glimpse of a green shoot.
But before you can harvest the tastiest veggies, you need to consider the unpredictable British weather and size of your outdoor space, garden or allotment.
For crops to survive the winter months, the easiest answer is a polytunnel – an elongated polythene- covered frame, which offers a microclimate that provides higher temperatures and humidity, so seedlings or other plants can grow out of season.
And while they offer protection all year round, it’s not a permanent structure, so they can be moved about or taken down completely, depending on the season or sunlight.
From a mini polytunnel with a 3ft wide cloche hoop, to a domestic polytunnel that’s 14ft wide, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can create an undercover growing area for a range of fruits, flowers and vegetables. And what’s more, they’re inexpensive and provide a lovely environment where you can pop in and out to care for your crops.
The winter months can yield some delicious vegetables. From now until December, it’s the perfect time to start growing broad beans, cabbage, coriander, garlic and strawberry plants.
Come the New Year, green fingered folk can sow carrots and radishes, and later in the month, potatoes, onions and salad greens. And it won’t be long before Mediterranean vegetables - such as tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines - will love the warmth of the polytunnel, and you can consider beetroot, carrots, peas, radishes and turnips, too.
As the temperature rises, the list gets longer and longer. And with no pests to worry about, cucumber, melon, sweetcorn, lettuce and even courgettes will thrive in the heat.
It’s enough to make the weekly big shop a thing of the past – and you can even try growing fresh flowers, too. Now, where did I put that trowel?