Julian Blackhirst guides you through your winter chores
In The Garden of St Erth’s cold, central Victorian climate, our winters are long and arduous. It’s not uncommon to have snow falls once or twice per year and we suffer heavy frosts from April through until November.
Despite the cold, long winters we continue gardening. The cooler season here can bring a real bonanza of fresh produce from our vegetable garden and the winter dormancy gives a great opportunity to prune, prepare soil, make compost or catch up on any garden jobs neglected from the previous season.
Many of our favourite vegetables are considered winter vegetables. Carrots and other root vegetables, cabbages, broccoli, spinach, peas, pak choy, and other fast growing mustards are all eaten and enjoyed through winter.
Autumn planting of many of these vegetables ensures a steady supply over the winter months and the first sunny days in late winter indicate that it’s time to sow the first of the spring vegetables. Often the soil is in reasonably good shape following the summer crop and a light cultivation. Weeding and the application of a complete organic fertiliser is all that is needed to create a seed bed for sowing winter vegetable seeds.
Garlic, onions and other alliums are cool season crops and should be grown through the cold of winter.
Traditionally onions were sown on the shortest day of the year ( June 21st) and harvested on the longest day. Early varieties make it possible for us to harvest our onions and garlic in November in time to put summer vegies in their place. Keeping our garlic beds weed free is important in order to get a harvest of good sized garlic. If we brave the cold winter temperatures and cultivate between each row with a hoe regularly, weeds don’t manage to take hold and we can avoid hours of painstaking hand weeding.