ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot
We are so fortunate to live in a part of the world where we can grow a plethora of winter vegetables to harvest from October to May, a period when gardeners typically leave garden beds empty. You can either allocate garden space specifically for winter crops, or follow earlier crops of broad beans (favas), peas, lettuce, potatoes, garlic or shallots. When following an early crop don’t forget to feed the soil by mixing compost into it, or sowing a green manure crop in it, to help renew fertility levels for the follow-on crop.
If sowing directly into the garden, the best time is from June to August. Don’t forget the importance of extra watering during hot spells, and thin out seedlings to help others establish more quickly. Sow bugs, cabbage worms, pill bugs and earwigs can be the bane of juicy winter vegetable seedlings as they establish, which is where floating row covers and insecticidal sprays can help. Banana and black slugs have such voracious appetites that I often do slug patrols at dusk, with a bucket and scoop in hand and it always amazes me how many I find. Tip: Cleaning debris from the garden removes moist and dark hiding places for slugs.
Tender leafy greens will fare better with protection from a cloche or cold frame. A wooden frame covered with a single-pane window or a polytunnel made from 6-mm plastic work well for this purpose. Lettuces do require protection to survive hard frosts, but even when frosted right down to their roots I’ve known them to grow back when the soil warms up in spring.
May/June: Sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, kale, collards, chard.
June/July: Root vegetables – beets, turnips, rutabagas, celeriac, parsnips, kohlrabi, carrots, ‘Walla walla’ onions, scallions, endive.
August: Direct seed arugula, corn salad, winter lettuces and mesclun, radicchio, oriental greens, mustards, cress, spinach, coriander, winter radish, kale, chard.
Carolyn Herriot is the author of The Zero-Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food. She is currently writing The Zero-Mile Diet Cookbook (fall 2012 release, Harbour Publishing).
Plan ahead for a winter harvest
- Grow your family’s favourite vegetables.
- Follow where earlier crops of peas, potatoes, lettuces or garlic have been harvested.
- Sow seeds direct in the garden from late June to early August.
- Seed starts from late June to mid-July, grow outdoors in a cool location, out of full sun and lifted out of the range of bugs!
- Transplant in the garden no later than September so that plants are well established by hard frosts.
- Add lime to soil to prevent club root in Brassicas.
- Help transplants get established with feeds of compost tea.
- Remove older leaves to prevent build up of flea beetle and cabbageworm.
- Harvest after hard frosts when the food is sweeter.
- Tender, leafy greens fare best with protection from cloches and cold frames.
- Be patient with sprouting broccolis (white and purple). Leafy plants form large heads in spring, followed by weeks of tender sprout production. Harbour Publishing). http://earthfuture.com/gardenpath/