Most winter vegetable plants are fully hardy and will cope well with cold winter weather, but if hard frosts threaten then you can always throw some fleece across them to provide some extra protection.
Most can be planted or sown directly outdoors to ensure that your winter vegetable garden is fully stocked.
1. Onions and Shallots
Autumn planting onion sets are easy to grow and will virtually look after themselves over winter. Onions have a long growing season and won't be ready for harvesting until next summer, so you will need to plan carefully as they will still be in the ground when you start planting other crops in spring. Onion 'First Early' is a popular and reliable variety or for a brightly coloured red onion try Onion 'Eletric'. In recent years Shallots have become more popular with the trendy gardener. Autumn Planting 'Echalote Grise' is a particularly choice variety for its intense and concentrated flavour.
Growing garlic couldn't be easier and there are lots of varieties to choose from for autumn planting. Like onions, they have a long growing season and won't be ready to harvest until next summer, but it is well worth the wait! ' Whiight Cristo' is well suited to most culinary dishes, but if you enjoy the fuller flavour of baked garlic, then try the attractive variety 'Chesnok Red' for its delicious creamy texture. For true garlic fans (and customers with vampire problems) T&M offers a full collection that will provide you with bumper crops of garlic
3. Spring Onions
Winter hardy varieties of Spring onion make a tasty accompaniment to winter salads. They are a fairly quick growing crop and early autumn sowings should be ready to harvest by early spring. Spring Onion 'White Lisbon' is a popular and reliable winter hardy variety.
4. Perpetual Spinach
Perpetual spinach makes an excellent 'cut and come again' crop that will produce huge yields of tasty leaves. Early autumn sowings will keep you supplied with tender young leaves throughout winter and with regular harvesting it will continue to crop well into summer! Be sure to remove the flowers to prevent it running to seed.
5. Broad Beans
Autumn sown broad beans can be harvested in spring up to a month earlier than spring sown plants. Broad Bean 'Aquadulce Claudia' is one of the best for autumn sowings, being particularly quick to establish. Once the plants are well grown you can even use the plant tips - they are delicious wilted with a little butter.
Enjoy an early crop of peas next spring. Autumn sowings of rounded varieties such as Pea 'Kelvedon Wonder' and Pea 'Meteor' are particularly hardy and will give you a head start next season. You will be the envy of the allotment when you start harvesting peas 3 or 4 weeks earlier than other growers!