Here you’ll find our top 10 favourite winter vegetables to grow outdoors or under glass during the colder months of the year. Easy to grow and highly versatile, onions, shallots and garlic lead the way, establishing themselves over winter to produce a delicious crop next summer. Find out which other crops make our fiercely contested list...
Autumn-planting onions and shallots go into the ground in September and October. They require little space and virtually look after themselves over the winter. Onion sets planted in autumn are ready to be harvested the following summer, so just remember they’ll still be in the ground when you start planting in spring.
Onions 'Troy' and ‘Centurion’ are popular varieties that produce bulbs with uniform pale flesh, tan skins, and good flavour. An excellent, cold-tolerant, red variety, ‘Electric’ has shiny red skin and blush-tinted flesh.
Shallot 'Jermor' holds an RHS Award of Garden Merit and is sometimes referred to as a ‘banana’ shallot because of the elongated shape of the bulb. It’s popular for its very sweet flavour and pretty pink tinge.
Garlic sets are one of the easiest things you can grow over the winter. Simply plant autumn-planting varieties in fertile soil, then mulch, keep moist and harvest in summer.
If you live in a very cold part of the UK, there are plenty of hardneck varieties that cope well with more severe winter conditions. ‘Extra Early Wight’ is a delicious hardneck that crops very early in the season in late May. And if you live in a milder area, 'Wight Cristo' is a softneck with excellent flavour. For something a bit different, try growing giant 'Elephant Garlic' to provide a gently flavoured accompaniment to roasts. Just pop a few whole bulbs into the tray with your meat or veg.
Winter hardy varieties of spring onion make a tasty addition to salads, stir fries and buttery new potatoes. Sow your spring onion seeds in early autumn, and your outdoor crop will be ready to harvest in early spring.
Spring Onion 'White Lisbon' is a popular, fast-maturing and reliably winter hardy variety with an RHS Award of Garden Merit. If you want long white stems that don’t ‘bunch’ at the base, try ‘Totem’. And for a bit of colour, try growing the attractive red ‘Apache’ under cloches.
Sow perpetual spinach seeds successively throughout the autumn and winter for a continuous supply of tasty 'cut and come again' leaves. Regular harvesting will keep your spinach cropping well into spring! Be sure to remove the flowers to prevent your plants running to seed, and remember to keep the soil moist.
If you sow hardy varieties of broad bean seeds between November and March, the seedlings can be planted out over the winter ready to produce an extra early crop in May. ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is one of the best varieties for autumn sowings, being particularly hardy and quick to establish. Once your plants are mature in early spring, you can harvest the plant tips as an extra crop - they’re delicious wilted with a little butter. Alternatively, sow seeds in February using varieties like ‘Witkiem’ and ‘Bunyard’s Exhibition’ for summer cropping.
Enjoy an extra early crop next spring by sowing your pea seeds in autumn. Sow 'Kelvedon Wonder', 'Meteor', and ‘Avola’ in October and November, and overwinter the seedlings under cloches or under cover. You’ll be the envy of the allotment when you start harvesting peas three or four weeks earlier than other growers!
Create a permanent asparagus bed this autumn for a delicacy that’s well worth your time and effort. Planting your asparagus crowns in warm autumn soil will give them a head start establishing over winter. Just remember to mulch well. Try classic 'Mondeo' or the colourful and stringless variety 'Pacific Purple'. Although asparagus beds take several years to establish, each asparagus crown can produce up to 25 spears per year and will continue cropping for up to 25 years!
Salads aren’t just for summer! Sow salad seeds for tasty and nutritious 'cut and come again' leaves throughout the entire winter. You can grow mixed leaf collections like 'The Good Life Mix' undercover all year round. Plant rows of lambs lettuce ‘Favor’, land cress, and ‘Oriental Mustards’ alongside to add a spicy, peppery flavour to your winter meals. For large, crisp whole heads of lettuce, sow hardy 'Winter Gem' under cloches in the veg patch.
For an exceptionally early crop in spring, sow your carrot seeds directly outside in rows through November and December to grow on under cloches. Sowing carrots near your winter onions and garlic will mask their sweet scent and deter carrot fly from your crop! Remember to thin your seedlings to encourage a harvest with bigger roots. ‘Adelaide’ is a fast-maturing variety, producing a deliciously crunchy and sweet crop.
This dual-purpose oriental vegetable can be harvested young throughout the winter as individual salad leaves, or allowed to mature for the succulent stems to be chopped into stir fries. Pak choi 'Tri Color Mix’ is quick to mature, and packed full of the healthy vitamins A and C as well as calcium, iron and folic acid. Although it’s often grown as a summer crop, pak choi excels when sown in late summer for transplanting undercover in autumn.
We hope that our selection of top 10 winter vegetables inspires you to fill your beds, borders, and containers through the winter months. For specific advice on growing cabbages, kale, and other cruciferous vegetables, head to our brassicas, broccoli and leafy greens hub page. Share your own winter veg with us using the hashtag #YourTMGarden on Twitter and Instagram.