From fork to plate

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Winter should not mean the end of gardening for the year. There is always plenty to do – if you’re prepared to accept the challenge. If you can provide a little shelter using a cold frame or plastic greenhouse it’s worth sowing seeds of broad beans to provide strong plants that can be planted out next spring.

Because they grow in tough conditions, varieties such as “Imperial Greenpod” and “The Sutton” are reliable in all but the harshest of winters. Sow the seeds individually in pots as soon as possible and keep evenly moist.

Winter vegetables such as leeks, parsnips and celery should be in their prime. Parsnips definitely taste sweeter once they have received a few hard frosts as the cold weather affects the carbohydrates in the stem, turning them to sugars.

If you’re gardening on heavy soil you should carry on with winter digging – it means there’s more time for the frosts to work on the big clumps to break them down into fine tilth. A dressing of lime could help to sweeten the soil, especially where you want to grow potatoes.

Onions and garlic are everyday kitchen ingredients, so it’s worth growing your own. The trick is to plant this side of Christmas to provide correct maturing and ripening during the height of summer.

For both autumn onion sets and garlic, treat the soil with a dressing of Growmore or fish, blood and bone before raking it into the surface.

Break the garlic bulb into individual cloves and plant with the tip of each clove just below the soil surface. Do the same with the onion sets. Choose a sunny, well-drained spot and feed regularly during spring and summer.