Potted Gardener: Hardy vegetables to give you a winter harvest
You may have picked your last tomato, but that's not the end of the season for growing vegetables in pots.
There are many leafy crops that grow well when the weather gets a bit cooler and September is the perfect time to sow seeds in garden containers for winter leaf vegetables.
Although harvests are smaller than in the summer months, if you choose the right crops to grow and protect them from wind damage, you can pick fresh leaves throughout the winter months.
The great thing about winter leaf vegetables and salad plants is that they can tolerate frost, which makes growing them such a success story.
Favourites of winter growers include chard, rocket and spinach.
Chard is a bright, colourful addition to your garden as well as being tasty and versatile in the kitchen.
Sow it by mid September and let the plants grow and get well established before it gets cold.
You can start picking the outer leaves sparingly from mid November.
Rocket is an easy-to- grow crop which adds a lovely peppery flavour to salads.
The younger leaves are milder, more tender and palatable and you can start picking from about four weeks after you have sowed the seed.
Perpetual spinach makes an excellent cut-and-come-again crop that will produce loads of tasty leaves throughout the winter which you can cook or use as a salad leaf.
If you live in an area that has substantial frost you may think about protecting the crown of the plant with straw.
Sowing seeds is easy, just fill your containers with compost, scatter the seeds thinly with about one or two centimetres between them and then cover with a thin layer of compost (about five to 10 millimetres) and water with a fine spray.
Don’t forget to water regularly – plants still need water in winter, just not so much.
But try to avoid watering before a frost.
Winter crops grow slower so they don’t need too much feed, but a little bit would help produce a good yield.
Position your pots in a sheltered spot to keep them out of the wind, and make sure they are easy to reach so that harvesting is hassle free.
Harvest your home-grown greens by picking the outer leaves first so that the inner leaves remain for plant re-growth.