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Heel in leeks and other winter veg

Lisa Garden on 07-11-2014

Heel in leeks and other winter veg to make sure you aren't caught out in a cold snap when the ground can freeze so hard it's impossible to get a fork in, let alone harvest anything.

Several crops happily stay in the ground over winter until you need them – leeks, parsnips and celeriac, for example. But it's a good precaution to lift at least a few of them early and move them somewhere more sheltered, where you can keep them protected until you need them. This process, known as heeling in, is also a great way to free up space in your veg beds for overwintering broad beans or peas, or perhaps a row or two of garlic.

Dig a shallow trench somewhere protected – tucked away by the shed is perfect - and pack your veg in closely together. Cover with loose soil, firming gently to keep them in place, followed by a layer of straw held down with fleece or netting weighted with bricks.

Your crops will keep like this for two or three months, the straw keeping the soil's surface frost-free, and you can dig your veg up as and when you need it – even when all around you is one big ice rink.