VSR – Winter Crops

At the end of both Summer and Autumn I analysed which crops made the best use of space in my garden during that season.  Details on the method I use can be found on the Summer Top 5 post.  This is my list for winter.  There are a couple of things to note here.  A large amount of my winter garden is taken up with plants that wont be ready until later in Spring or early summer – namely broad beans, garlic, shallots and onions.  As a result there were actually only about 10 plants that I grew, harvested from and recorded the weights etc of those harvests.  Of those this is the Top 5:

1. Cavolo Nero  – Won with similar scores to the Summer & Autumn winners.  For me it is worth growing because it takes up comparatively little space, is difficult to find and I love the look and texture of the leaves so it adds to the appeal of the garden generally.  That and that its packed full of nutrients.

2. Parsley – Parsley probably would have won had it not been for the fact that I have so many plants (far more than I need) and so it takes up quite a bit of room.  I could have planted about half as many plants and I still would have more than anyone could possibly use.

3. Tamarillo – Like parsley tamarillo made the top 5 in Autumn as well and this is basically because it is really productive, doesn’t take up too much room, and the fruits are generally hard to find unless you grow them yourself (having said that I have seen them in the supermarket quite a bit lately).  The kids and I ate our way through about 300 tamarillos this year, they went into lunch boxes, they went into salads but mostly they were just eaten whenever someone whinged “I’m hungry”.

4. Silver beet/Chard – Chard also was in the Autumn Top 5, its highly productive, convenient to have always available and most enjoyable when its fresh.  It is also comparatively expensive to buy at the supermarket.  At about $4.50 a bunch its easy save a fair bit of money by growing your own in a comparatively small space.

5. Broccoli – Given the large proportion of my garden given over to brassicas at this time of the year I’m glad that it wasn’t just Kale that made the list.  The big advantage broccoli and kale have over crops like cauliflower and cabbage is that you get more than one harvest from them.  A cauliflower sits in the ground using up about half a square metre, for about 4 months plus to produce one $3.00 head.  Broccoli uses about the same space but over the course of the 4 months it will produce upwards of $10 worth of shoots in that time.

So what didn’t make the Top 5: – Cabbages because the crops failed, Cauliflower because they take up so much room for just one harvest, Potatoes because the size of the crops was ridiculously meagre, and Salad Leaves and Radishes purely because their growth wasn’t quick enough to produce enough volume (I do think both are worth growing though).  It will be interesting to see the VSR figures for the crops I have in the ground at them moment but have yet to harvest – the broad beans, the garlic, the shallots and the onions, hopefully their figures will justify the space they have taken up all winter.

So which crops do you find perform best for you in winter?

For more Top 5 fun head over to see what appeals to The New Good Life this week.

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35 Responses to VSR – Winter Crops

  1. Pingback: Tuesday’s Top Five – Ways to spend my days off | The New Good Life

  2. Barbara Good says:

    My top five based purely on my impressions without any mathematics having been done to back this up are:
    Silverbeet, broccoli, parsley, turnips, rosemary.
    The last one is a bit of a stretch, but I didn’t have much else on the list. The peas were a failure, the carrots and parsnips were too few and quite small, the cabbages are still in the ground, but looking very good finally.

    • Liz says:

      I need to try growing turnips next winter – as they’re not something I generally cook with I’ve never tried to grow them but I think that should change.

  3. I love the VSR idea and have been working through qualifications and ratings for my own garden. I generally don’t have as much planted in winter, so space is not at as much of a premium.

    • Liz says:

      I think I need to factor that into the ratings somehow. At the end of the year IO’ll reveiw my scoring system and make some adjustments I think.

  4. L says:

    Just having a quick look through my records (which are nowhere near as good as yours so I can’t be nearly as scientific) and I think my best are:
    Tomatoes (I know, I can hear your groan, but it’s the truth!)
    Cavalo Nero
    Spring onions

    I think the best VSR crops must be the ones that grow quite vertically. All of these ones fit the bill to some extent.

    I really must try tamarillos if they work as a good kid snack. They’re a winter crop you say?

    • Liz says:

      Nah not groan, hiss, spit and whinge – he, he, he, nah not really I am pleased for you and glad that there is come compensation for having to live in only the 2nd best city in Australia… he, he, he. My celery wasn’t great this year – I think I put it in the ground too early. I plan to sow later this year so the plants are younger when winter hits. Not sure if that will work but I’ll try anyway. I will also sort out my Wombok succession planting – I ran out in Autumn and then never managed to plant any more.

  5. Winter crops?
    Overwinter we are really picking things that are hanging around rather than growing which tends to be cabbages, carrots, parsnips, leeks, Brussels sprouts, swedes.

    I never really think in terms of the space taken as on the plot we have room to grow whatever we want – I tend to think of value for taste. So carrots have to come at the top – I’ve yet to buy a carrot that comes up to the taste of a home grown one.

  6. Katie says:

    Much to my surprise, my best winter crop this year has been baby broccoli… bought as $1 mark downs at a hardware store! The variety was Magic Dwarf, from memory. It’s done fabulously well and we’ve been picking it and eating it for weeks now, from a mere eight plants (but I’ve been remiss and didn’t weigh it from the start) and it tastes just fantastic. I’ve never had broccoli do well before, previous attempts have always ended up inedibly infested with aphids. I like to think that it’s done better this year because now I have so much more variety in the garden that the birds and insects have come back and it’s all a bit more balanced… nothing is getting mown down by earwig plagues anymore!
    Spring onions are also wonderful, and if you plant enough you can pick them continuously. I hope to never buy a spring onion from the supermarket again.
    Pepinos, like your tamarillos, are prolific and it’s just a shame I just don’t actually like them very much… (my mum loves them, so she gets the lot!) but I do need to keep a wary eye on the plant or it will take over the back garden completely, like triffids.
    I agree that cauliflower is just not really worth the effort, which is a shame really because its a favourite vegetable. Ditto to carrots.

    • Liz says:

      I can take or leave pepinos I have to say, but I might give them a try for the kids. I do think the looser headed broccoli varieties are easier to keep the aphids away from – and easier to spray them off if they do attack.

  7. winner this year is purple sprouting broccoli, super abundant. Spring onions, silverbeet, coriander, parsley and leeks all giving well and quite a few late potatoes. My first crop of cauliflowers was super quick – planted late summer – but the second is much slower. I don’t bother with cabbages. Tamarillos sound worth another try, my first plant died in the frost. Very interesting hearing the maths on vegie growing.

  8. Mark Willis says:

    A proper, scientific look at VSR often reveals some surprising results. e.g. Parsley may seem like an insignificant crop when comapred to the much larger Broccoli, but just think how much parsley you can grow in the space taken up by one broccoli plant – and how much you would have to pay for it if you bought that amount of parsley in the shops!

    • Liz says:

      I think my ‘science’ needs a little tweaking – the weightings aren’t quite right yet but I will get there. I think I’ll make adjustments when I’ve got a years worth of data.

  9. Frogdancer says:

    Warrigal greens… hands down!

  10. Daphne says:

    My ground is frozen in the winter so I couldn’t say. Some years I can get the Asian greens to live into January. Spinach and kale often overwinter, but don’t actually grow in the winter.

  11. mac says:

    Chinese cabbage, broccoli, radishe, and kale have done well for my fall-winter garden in the past 2 years, but I won’t them this year because my travel schedule.

    • Liz says:

      I harvested all my Chinese Cabbage in Autumn and then realised I should have succession planted – oh well, something to rectify next year.

  12. Nina says:

    I’m not being scientific about this at all but my gut tells me: parsley, silverbeet, parsnips (though they occupy the ground for a long time – but I miss them), carrots and eggs (I’m stretching the rules, now!). And did I mention parsley and silverbeet? They have been fantastic.

    Could I please pick your and/or your readers brains? My broad beans (favas) are doing very well. Lots and lots of flowers. I have the raised bed covered with bird netting, mainly at this stage of their growth, to keep the chooks out. Question: are they self-fertilising or do they need bee activity? Bees can get through the netting if they are really keen but I’m worried that not as many beans will set if they do need the bees. Google isn’t always my friend and the answer to my search hasn’t been conclusive. I trust you guys and would appreciate your opinions.

    • Liz says:

      If no one responds here I will repost the question in my Monday Harvest post. But my 2 cents worth is that they are partially self fertile – ie you will get a crop without pollinators but you’ll get a bigger crop with them. That was the conclusion I drew after looking into this last year but as you say its a hard issue to find consensus on. I’m thinking I might try root veg next winter now that I have pretty much established that cauliflower isn’t neccessarily the best choice of veg to grow….

    • Louise says:

      I have often found that broadbeans are disappointing in setting fruit. I am not sure why that is, except that bee activity might explain it. In part this is the reason why, if I grow BBs, I tend to do so as a green manure, often in between my broccoli. I don’t wait for it to set , I almost always turn it in.

      • Liz says:

        I’ve never had a problem with broad beans setting fruit. I’ve grown them for years and they’ve always cropped. Do you think that they object to Sydney’s humidity?

        • L says:

          They set fruit well for me, But I grow impatient waiting for them so I gave them a miss this year. I suspect bees are really really important for broad beans – I tend to grow mine in an area of high bee activity.

  13. Maree says:

    Just love your photos! I too have been wondering about the broadies and pollination. Interested to see responses.

  14. Louise says:

    Of course as I didn’t do the numbers, it may be that I am going on what I like rather than what objectively performed… but nevertheless, snowpeas are in there big time, followed by broccoli and cauli, spring onions and savoy cabbages. But I don’t grow kale and my parsley was at the end of its two year phase and so was on the wane seriously so hard to compare to your crops. I am so envious of your tamarillos.

  15. Orchidea says:

    Nice… I also have cavolo nero, 2 big pots on my balcony and I am lookign forward to try it (this is the first year I saw it) but I want to wait the temperature goes down under zero at night, I read a lot of Italian size about cavolo nero and they say the taste of this wonderful vegetable gets after the frost. I will wait and try.

    • Liz says:

      We don’t get frost so I couldn’t say – i’ll have to get mum & dad to grow it – they do get frost – and see if I can tell the difference.

  16. Diana says:

    I forgot to sow No.1 this year.
    No.3 I would like to try growing them, browsing some seeds.
    No.2&4 lucky this year with volunteer.
    No.5 I agree it is good that we can continue to harvest them.
    Looking forward to your shallot harvest and the rest of winter veggies.

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