10 Best Vegetables to Grow in the Winter in Zimbabwe
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
One of the key parts of farming is knowing what to grow and when to plant it.
A question we get asked a lot is what vegetables should I to grow now.
Our answer is usually that it depends.
That's not really helpful when you are ready to select the right vegetables to plant on your farm, is it?
So we decided we needed to dig in.
While it really does depend on a number of factors including local climate, land size, your soils, price and available market, the fact is the season matters.
Most vegetables and crops fall into two groups: cool-season and warm-season. Cool season crops not only tolerate cool weather, they need cool winter temperatures (of about 13-24 degrees C) to thrive.
So rather than letting you waste time trying to figure out what grow now, we decided to give you our selection of the 10 best cool-season vegetables to grow now in Zimbabwe. These will give you productive winter farm!
Peas do best during the cool dry winter season (mid-April to October). Here in Zimbabwe, we are lucky to have the perfect climate to grow them. They are a good option for emerging farmers for a number of reasons: high-yielding, fast-growing and don't need a lot of space because most can be grown vertically.
Peas are part of the legume family which includes beans. They fall into two main categories: those with edible pods and those grown for fresh or dried seeds called English Peas. Peas with edible pods have either flat pods, called snow peas (mange tout) or fat pods such as sugar snap peas.
Most farmers in Zim grow snap and snow peas under contract for packers/exporters. You can read about how Ruramiso Mashumba is having some success growing peas under contract in our Meet the Emerging Farmer interview. Some companies that work with outgrowers under contract are Nhimbe Fresh Exports, Fresh Direct, Selby Enterprises, and Better Agriculture. Pick a contracting company that is best for your farm.
If you would like to learn how to grow peas check out Farmerscope's guide here.
Onions are a practical vegetable to grow. They are popular and eaten in almost every household every day. They are part of the allium family with garlic, shallots, and leeks.
Onion also stores well and can keep for months. They come in red (sweetest), white and yellow and can be grown from seed, seedling or sets.
Cabbage is popular, super flavourful and healthful vegetable. It also stores well. It is part of the cole/brassica family with broccoli and shares some of the same growing requirements, diseases and pests with broccoli.
Cabbage thrives in cool autumn weather and can tolerate frost which sometimes happens in regions I and II. Success with cabbage is dependent on bringing them through their growth cycle during the cooling weather.
It is also less susceptible to pests in the winter so you will suffer fewer crop losses.
You can learn more about growing cabbage in our Cabbage Growing Guide.
Carrots are root vegetables. They are easy to grow, and can be grown well with peas and lettuce.They also store very well.
They come in a number of colours besides the common orange. Other carrot colours are yellow, white and purple. Carrots can be eaten cooked, raw, chopped or grated and are full of vitamins.
Spinach is a cool weather loving, leafy vegetable. It is rich, healthy and nutritious. It has a short growing cycle and produces high yields.
It is easy to grow, as long as the weather is not too hot. You can plant your spinach together with slower growing cabbage.
6. Greens (Rape, Kale)
Greens are a national staple for every (ok, most) household meals. They are hardy vegetables that can tolerate warm-season weather but may actually improve when the temperature is cooler. All kale varieties are frost tolerant.
Broccoli is a useful and enduring vegetable, that is frost tolerant.You can grow it from seed or purchase it as a transplant from a nursery. Broccoli will bolt if temperatures rise, and so plant it to mature when temperatures are cool. It is not susceptible to pests like other vegetables.
Garlic is a good ingredient in food due to its flavour and aroma. It is easy to grow, drought tolerant and a great insect repellant.
It provides a high return on investment because you can grow a large amount of it in a small space. Do note though that it has a long growing season.
Garlic varieties come in two types - soft neck and hard neck. You can learn more about growing garlic in our garlic growing guide.
Lettuce is easy to grow, fast growing and produces consistently high yields. It also requires a limited amount of space to grow. Yvonne Kazingizi who we interviewed for our Meet the Emerging Farmer series grows it in her urban backyard. It can also be harvested over an extended period of time.
Lettuce varieties are characterized by how their leaves grow--head lettuces such as iceberg types and looseleaf lettuces.Other types such as butterhead, romaine and oakleaf fall in-between. Lettuce greens are good complementary vegetables to grow with carrots.
Lettuce is however highly perishable so only grow it if you are close to market or have a good cooling system.
Last but certainly not least are mushrooms. You can grow mushrooms all-year round, but if you are dealing with frequent power cuts it's better to grow them in the cooler weather.
Mushrooms are also highly perishable so need to be grown close to market or processed.
The two main types of mushrooms grown in Zimbabwe are oyster and button mushrooms. You can learn about our mushroom growing experience with Soko Mushrooms here.
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