By Kath Irvine
A journalist once asked me what’s the best time of year to start a garden. I said: “Any time. There’s not one food growing season, there are four!”
Let’s take a look at what to plant in your vege patch in winter. I encourage you to take this leap into year-round gardening (also called successional planting). Your reward is great – a year-round harvest.
And there is, I’m sure you’ll agree, the gift to your soul – the “being alive” feeling that gardening brings; the thrill of providing your own food – best food – for yourself and your family; the small triumph you feel when, although it rains, you went out and got on with it!
Wet, heavy clay
If you’re on wet, heavy, and therefore cold soil, your
winter garden will be best in pots. Over time the addition
of organic matter, gypsum and mulch will transform the glug into the free draining humus you need for year-round planting. For now, the best thing you can do is to mulch soggy soils and leave them well alone.
Learn your place
Understanding your unique growing environment is essential. There’s a lot of advice out there and not all of it is going to apply to your patch. The only way you learn your garden’s limits are by mucking in and doing it. This here is what I can plant in winter, in my Horowhenua garden. Tweak it to suit your place and your palate.
Vegetables to plant or sow outside
- Plant broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage for late spring harvest.
- Plant bok choy or kale for late winter harvest.
- Direct or tray-sow rocket, mesclun, miner’s lettuce, corn salad, spinach, raddichio, snow peas, peas and broad beans for spring and summer harvest.
- Direct-sow parsnip, radish, kohlrabi, swede or turnips.
- Direct-sow legume green crops, as heavy feeders such as broccoli come to an end. (Now you’re really thinking like a food gardener – preparing your ground for future crops.)
- Plant garlic, shallots, spring onions and onions for summer harvest.
- Plant globe artichokes for spring harvest.
- Plant asparagus crowns for future springs (about three years before you can harvest, but oh, so worth it).
Vegetables to plant or sow under cover
By under cover I mean in the greenhouse, in a cloche or under bottles. Old windows and car windscreens are fab! Adding another layer warms the air and soil and speeds tender seedlings along. Another way to warm your seedlings is to grow them in pots close to your house.
- Direct-sow coriander, beetroot or lettuce.
- Plant out saladings.
Good things take time
It’s important you understand the truth of how long from seedling to harvest. Good things take time. In the matter of a broccoli you’re looking at three months, a lettuce six weeks, garlic six months. Add some frosty cold weather and everything slows, almost grinding to a halt. So when I say planting the winter garden, it’s just that – planting. The food you’re harvesting now was thoughtfully planted in autumn.