Know your Winter vegetables

By Hanks Saisai

The change of seasons is fast approaching, as summer transitions into autumn. Crop producers who produce crops all year round know that it’s time to begin preparing seedlings of winter loving and winter tolerant crops.

As with summer, winter has a variety of crops that do quite well in the cold months of the year. Vegetables get to thrive if planted in the right season at the right time that is most optimum for them.

When vegetables are grown in the wrong season, a farmer may experience pests, diseases and poor germination rates which may all lead to crop failure.

Onions are grown for their bulbs; and they prefer to be grown during the winter months of the year. Onions normally prefer sandy loam soils, which allow easy root development and has good drainage and aeration (air circulation).

Onions require Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) for optimum growth and a couple of trace elements such as Magnesium, Zinc, and Iron.

Cabbage is a vegetable normally grown for its folded leaves in the form of a round head. It’s a winter loving vegetable that grows well when there is a low level of insects as most insects hibernate during the cold months of the year. Sandy loam to loam types of soils are preferred by cabbages, and these soils must be well prepared to ensure good drainage, air circulation and easy root growth.

Such soils should also be able to supply cabbages with the much needed NPK nutrient combinations.

Carrots are also grown in winter when temperatures are lower. They need to be grown in raised seedbeds that are well loosened and prepared to ensure easy root penetration that is critical for maximum growth of the root, which is the part desired for harvesting.

Sandy loam soils are ideal, and these soils should be able to supply NPK and some trace elements such as Zinc, Magnesium and Boron.

Beetroot, which is normally grown for its tubers, can also be grown during winter as it prefers cooler months of the year to thrive. Nutrition is important, as beetroots also require NPK and sufficient water.

When growing beetroots, one needs to understand that well prepared seed beds are key to successful beetroot harvests. Beetroot prefers well loosened soils that have good drainage, good air circulation and good water holding capacity.

Other vegetables that can be grown during the winter are Spinach, Cauliflower, Broccoli and Lettuce.

Always be advised that before undertaking any production, determine your soil status (via a soil sample test), climatic or environmental requirements and water requirements of each vegetable.

It is of great importance to also know the market demand in your constituency or region.

– Mr Hanks Saisai is Agribank’s Technical Advisor: Crops & Poultry.