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Winter fun

by Darcy Robinson
A Gardener's Diary
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Spring in sight
Summer's bounty
Winter fun
Summers End
The first year


I have really enjoyed the garden this winter.  The pressure has been off  compared to the work required over spring and summer and all the raised beds were built last winter so we haven’t had any hard landscaping to get done by spring.  I’ve been able to relax a little and spend most of my time in the garden weeding (without the immediate regrowth of spring and summer), tidying up and pea-strawing.  I did the vegetable gardens late autumn/early winter and have had time to concentrate more on the flower garden since then.  Lots of moving things about and replanting going on!

Before I pea-strawed the vegetable beds I put on a layer of horse manure and some green waste.  The seeds I planted in late autumn weren’t in early enough to really get going before the cold hit so I lost some of the winter vegetables I was hoping for.  Many have started coming away now with corn salad and some of the hardier varieties in my mesclun mix big enough to pick.  I’m still harvesting parsnip (some of the biggest I’ve ever seen), celeriac, carrot, salsify and the odd beetroot from late spring/early summer plantings.

Delicious pumpkin
I also had a pumpkin (my only pumpkin for last season) in storage which we ate a couple of weeks ago.  As soon as I cut into it the smell was amazing - made me realise how different shop bought ones are now from the ones Dad used to grow. The variety was Marina Di Chioggia and it made a gorgeous soup. The broad beans I sowed late autumn grew really well and were starting to flower when we had a good hard frost.  They half fall over but since then have started to come away again and a few more flowers have appeared.  I sowed more broad beans early to mid winter which are coming away also but hopefully the two lots should end up quite nicely staggered.  

Glasshouse winter planting
In the glasshouse in autumn I dug out most of the soil and added it to the raised bed I’d grown similar things in previously (in an effort to stick with the rotation of the outside beds).  I replaced it with a layer of green waste, manure and some compost I had ready with a layer of seaweed on top.  I planted lettuce, tat-soi, silverbeet and a few brassica seedlings and sowed pea and mizuna seeds.  Though progress was slow I’m now getting a good harvest off the mizuna, a few leaves off the silverbeet, tat-soi and lettuce and the peas are flowering.  The brassicas are a reasonable size and I have just transplanted them to an outside bed.  Hopefully I’ll get something from them earlier than spring sown ones.

Spring Sowing
Seed planting time is drawing near very fast and over the next couple of weeks I’ll start a few trays off inside.  I am also going to try sowing some mizuna, tat-soi and the like direct, thinking that if it’s not quite warm enough they’ll hopefully just sit and wait till it is.  The weather we are having at the moment definitely is warm enough but it is likely we’ll get hit with another cold snap before spring really starts.  I got caught out last year with some of the more tender seedlings by a couple of late frosts so will be a little more patient with some varieties this year.  I have also been collecting seed from anything and everything in the garden, both flower and vegetable.  Some I just broadcast there and then while others I’ve stored including pumpkin, pea and sweetpea.

Seed selecting
Perusing the seed catalogues is another plus of winter.  I have just completed my seed order for the coming spring and it is a long, slow but enjoyable process.  My first list always needs to be whittled down a lot due to budget constraints and time limitations.  I learnt last year that some specialty plants or ones that are borderline for your climate and require special care take a lot of time and energy to be successful.  I think it’s better for me to aim for a smaller variety of pants this year but do them better.  I also still have seeds left from the last two seasons so lack of variety won’t be an issue.  I’ll save some of the more unusual and difficult varieties to try when I have more time and no toddler following behind digging holes and all those other handy things toddlers love to do in the garden.  It pays not to have any plant that’s too precious….


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