Over the last few weeks winter has arrived with a vengeance. For gardeners, this is traditionally a quieter time as the lush growth of summer and autumn finally slows. However, it is also a time to get the veggie garden set up for the next growing season. Garlic and shallots should be in by now – I try to get mine planted early to mid-May, when the soil is still warm. This gets the bulbs away to a good start before the cold comes, but if you haven’t managed to plant these yet, no problem as our relatively warm climate in the North means you’ve still got all of June and July to plant.
Both crops like a lot of fertiliser and compost, so I get this in before planting, then let a flush of weeds come through, remove these and then plant. After planting, another flush of weeds is weeded off before covering the soil with 5cm or so of woody mulch (straw works well too). This regime sounds like a lot of work, but actually massively reduces the amount of weeding needed when the weather warms up in spring.
It’s also time to replant the strawberry beds as the roots need to be well established before the weather warms up. They get the same treatment as the garlic and shallots, again setting the crop up well for a nearly maintenance-free growing season. I used to grow from my own runners, but lately I’ve been preferring to replant from fresh stock so I can try different varieties to find what best suits our soil and climate.
Now is the time to harvest my last lot of rhubarb for the season. I pull off nearly every leaf at this time of year, then weed, spread manure, add a good layer of compost over the top and then mulch. This ensures a big crop of giant stems in spring as rhubarb is a gross feeder. I do the same with the asparagus bed, as this is another crop that likes a good feed and thrives in raised beds with lots of organic matter in the soil.
Out of the eight garden beds, these crops take up four beds; the other beds get a slow rotation of lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. A punnet of each planted every four to six weeks is more than enough to keep our family in veggies throughout winter, supplemented by treats like snow peas and baby carrots. Although many garden writers recommend resting beds over winter with a green crop of mustard or similar, I don’t usually have beds out of action for long enough to do this. Applications of compost between crops more than make up for this though.