The start of the Hungry Gap?

For those of you who have been growing winter crops, you may find that you’re more or less done with harvesting as broccoli plants go over, winter salads start to bolt and flower. This is perfectly normal, and is known as the Hungry Gap because there is little to harvest and summer crops have not yet been planted out, or are not ready to harvest yet.

If you’re down to the last few leeks, and some salad leaves that are going over and perhaps the very last spears of purple sprouting broccoli, then the hungry gap is coming and it’s a good time to get your plot ready for spring planting. It’s usually a good opportunity to mulch or dig in fresh compost to top up the nutrients in the soil and it’s a good opportunity to think about crop rotation too – gardeners tend to find that by avoiding growing the same crop in the same bed two years running, the plants grow more healthily with fewer diseases. We’ve done posts on crop rotation in the past, so see below articles for tips on that.

The hungry gap can’t really be avoided in the UK, although it’ll be interesting to see if that starts to change over the coming years with the weather being so unpredictable and the winters seeming to become milder and milder. The best that you can do is to plant your winter crops in September/October and then get spring planting off to as early a start as you can. Even then, planting too early is more likely to result in crop failure – frost damage, wind damage, overwatering courtesy of April ‘showers’ can all be very stressful for plants, and it’s also the hungry gap for pigeons, mice and other pests so any newly planted seedlings are an easy target.

One thing you can think about doing is growing more of those plants that you can store well – winter squashes, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, and lots of root veggies can usually be harvested and stored over the winter (the beans can be dried so these are excellent to have on hand) – and plants that you can freeze well, like French beans and runner beans, ready to cook at this time of year.

Our Year Round Veg Patches are a really good place to start to make the most of your growing space throughout the seasons, but it is inevitable that for a couple of months in spring your harvesting will be on pause.

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