Winter in the Veggie Garden
It’s a typical Saturday morning in July, and my family and I brave the weather and make the trek north across the Yarra River to the Collingwood Children’s Farm. Here, we find a mass of people wearing secondhand knitted jumpers and gumboots, busily filling their baskets with fresh produce from the monthly farmers market. After lining up for our caffeine fix, we do our shopping and rumble back to the car with armloads of winter vegetables. To reach the carpark, we walk past the local community garden. It’s empty, not a soul in sight. Nothing but the morning dew dripping from the winter crops of kale and young sprouting garlic.
Seeing the garden in this state made me reflect on how a veggie patch is often barren and sparse during the cold winter months, a desert of sorts. Often it looks as if nothing is happening at all, with resting empty beds and moaning perennials crying out for sunshine and warmth. I dare say, most gardeners are inside dunking freshly baked biscuits into hot cups of tea. But do you blame them? Winter is probably most gardener’s least favourite season. It’s cold, miserable and wet. But, it can still be very productive, allowing you to work on many tasks often postponed during the warmer months.
Winter is a great time to be oiling and sharping tools in the shed, while listening to the footy on ABC radio. It’s also a time to organise your seeds and start propagating for spring. You’ll want to get your summer crops going soon, particularly if they’re to feature in your Christmas lunch! Winter is the time when I start propagating some of our favourite tomatoes such as Pomodoro Costoluto Fiorentino (Ribbed Florentine Tomato – Solanum lycopersicum var Canestrino di lucca ).
Sometimes I could be mistaken for the lazy rather than hungry gardener as I tend to delegate work to the plants themselves.
Sowing and growing green manures crops during winter will help prepare the soil for summer vegetables. Typically, I do this with my favourite crop – Broad Beans (Vicia faba). Not only do they provide the soil with a good feed of nitrogen, they will also feature in a pot of stuffed artichokes and new season spuds come mid spring.
Now is also the time to be planning and investing in your garden. Straggly, dead looking bare rooted trees are now available at your local nursery and winter is the best time to be planting them. Explore dual planting these trees to make the most of your limited space. Dual planting refers to planting two trees in the one hole. This is also a great option for trees requiring cross pollination.
Winter is also bath time for your fruit trees! Spray deciduous fruit trees with a low environmental impact copper oxychloride or lime sulphur spray several times over the winter dormancy period, until buds burst. This should stop any fungal issues in spring when the buds start to open. Pruning should also be on the agenda, particularly citrus trees that may have been infected with gall wasps.
As I live a hectic life with weekends dominated by family activities, it can be hard to find time in the garden. This, to me is the real beauty of winter in the veggie patch – I can get away with doing less! If I don’t finish a job because of a downpour, or because I got carried away chatting to my neighbour, or because my sister dropped in for a coffee and demanded I make my famous citrus zesty doughnuts, I can always get back too it next weekend. In summer this can’t happen, there’s a sense of urgency needing to be meet. I love the slower pace of winter in the garden, as it allows me to catch up on other things. And, as they say in Italy, “piano piano” which means slowly slowly.
Fab’s Winter Tips: Things to plant now!
- Bare root fruit trees
- Broad beans