Calendar of when to do what in the vegetable garden

growing veg

Now you have time to plan your crop rotation.  This helps you maximize the nutrition

snow on the veg garden: now is the time plan your crop rotation
Winter in the veg garden. Time to make some plans

in the soil that is most suitable for the crop you wish to grow. It also helps prevent a gradual build of pests or diseases. Most of the vegetables you are most likely to grow fall into one of three groups where each vegetable has a preference for a different level of nutrition or condition of the soil.

If an area has been dug this winter and a good quantity of well-rotted manure has been incorporated then the vegetables that are most liable to take advantage of that are fast growing plants or large producers of harvestable crop. Out of the former we would have the complete range of salad crops and the latter would include peas and beans.

This area, the following season would be suitable to grow many of the brassica family like Cabbage and Cauliflower. If the soil is fairly acid or neutral (if rhododendrons and azaleas grow well in your soil) then you may need to add a bit of lime to keep the hearts of the plants tight.

The next year after that you can use that area for the root veg, things like beetroot, carrots, turnips etc. It would also be suitable for growing potatoes is the ground has added garden compost. This is not full of leaf-stimulating nutrients but improves the soil in other ways by adding humus, which is full of micro-organisms.


Now if you are starting from scratch then you need to designate each area and only apply the richest manure to a third of the garden where the beans etc are going. If you don’t have rich organic manure then a combination of organic compost and organic chicken pellets will do. Even if you choose the totally inorganic method and apply chemical fertilizer, you still need to improve the soil with organic matter. Back during the war and before, city gardeners would often resort to filling a trench for their beans and peas with newspapers and let them rot down. A bit of judicious use of ‘night soil’ (everyone had a pot under the bed) often got the rotting process going in full swing and supplied that extra fertilizer. (Man wee is better than lady wee for this.)

Three Year Crop Rotation

Year one

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3









Brussels Sprouts









Kohl Rabi




Year two

Group 2

Group 3

Group 1

Year three

Group 3

Group 1

Group 2

Year four

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Some veg can act as ground fillers as the opportunity arises. I find small salad crops particularly useful n this respect.


  • Finish the winter digging as and when you can. Ensure the ground is not too wet or frosty – difficult I know, so leave it and just keep it clear of rubbish and detritus. Make a resolution for next season to get it done before the year is out.  It is winters like this one that gardeners with ‘raised-beds’ or ‘deep-beds’ win out.
  •  Some gardeners recommend covering the ground (?) to enable it to heat up under a cover of plastic. But I would suggest leaving it open to the elements for a while and let nature do some of the work for you. Leaving the soil rough dug lets the frost do the job of breaking up the clods. Also those of you with slug, snail or leather jacket problems will find the birds (Blackbirds in the UK) relish the feast of eggs and dormant pestilential grubs you have exposed with your digging.
  • Some gardeners in very sheltered part of the UK can sow some crops outdoors under cloches -lettuce, salad onions, radishes, peas, broad beans and spinach.
  • Sow crops indoors. If you can provide a consistent temperature of 13C or 55F then you can sow: lettuce, cauliflower, summer cabbage, round ended carrots in modules, spinach, turnips, peas and broad beans. In my first garden, an estate run in the Victorian tradition, onions were traditionally sown on New Year’s Day because this ensures the maximum length of growing season is available to the developing bulb – very important consideration for exhibition growers!  For newcomers onions sets planted in  March is a little less stressful.

Start off your potatoes – see chitting potatoes.

To see what seeds you can sow this month see this handy website from Garden and Leisure and click on the relevant seeds tab:

Meanwhile remember that the key to growing vegetables effectively, sustainably i.e. year after year is in the  planning of the crop rotation.

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