Gardening: Polytunnel stood its ground and kept our winter vegetables safe

I arrived into work with some trepidation on Wednesday – after the strong winds I was concerned for the state of our Edible Gardening Project polytunnel.

The garden has suffered damage to the glasshouses and some trees, but I was relieved to find the polytunnel still standing. I first wrote about our plans for growing winter vegetables under cover back in August. I confidently said that we were planting for a “bumper crop”, and despite the odd setback we have definitely achieved what we set out to do.

Amongst other things we have claytonia, mustard greens, Japanese mizuna, not to mention good old spinach all looking fabulously green and lush. We have learnt that the key to succeeding with winter vegetables is getting the sowing dates just right. We sowed winter greens and oriental leaves in August which means that the plants are big enough to cope with cold but are still in a juvenile state when winter arrives. These young plants will effectively lie dormant until spring when they will grow on again to fill the “hungry gap”. Other things to bear in mind include allowing enough space around the plants for good ventilation, preventing any nasty disease or fungus taking hold.

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Having the polytunnel has also highlighted the constant attention a vegetable garden needs. A really successful plot will be checked on every day. This allows you to keep up with the weeds, monitor the watering situation and, in the case of the polytunnel, the ventilation.

The variety of winter crops in the edible garden has definitely made a difference to me this year. In my house there is always a lack of consideration given to meals in the time between Christmas and New Year – you know, the week that feels a little bit like one long Sunday afternoon. The meals cobbled together from leftover turkey, ham and tins of tomatoes were cheered up no end with a couple of handfuls of spinach fresh from the polytunnel, and kale and parsley from the garden.

My breakfast favourite of the moment is scrambled egg with chopped oriental greens stirred in. I first came across the addition of greens to a cooked breakfast in Australia. I initially viewed this with some suspicion but they are a healthy bunch and I have definitely been converted. Sneaking in one of my five a day so early in the proceedings definitely sets me up for the day.

• Jenny Foulkes is Edible Gardening Project manager at the Botanics. The project, which teaches people to grow their own food, is jointly run with the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery