When does one vegetable gardening year end and the next begin? Does the first frost of winter slam the door on the vegetable year only to open again now with the buds starting to move on the trees?
My gardening year always starts with garlic planting on 1 April. I then put in broad beans and peas and fill any remaining spaces with a green manure crop. The hard work is over and I move inside, get on my computer and start drooling over seed catalogues thinking about the next gardening year.
The short days and the cold nights halt the growth of not only weeds, lawns, shrubs, trees but also vegetables, so apart from growing onions and pruning there is little else to do.
Experienced gardeners know that you don’t plant winter vegetables in winter. The winter garden should be already packed with salad greens, cooking greens and root vegetables ready to pick as all the summer treats are finishing.
Heavy frosts don’t harm mature winter crops: in fact, the cold weather acts like a fridge. Hard freezing also changes the flavour of root vegetables and members of the cabbage family. They react to the cold by producing sugars. Why grow summer carrots when one large sowing in January will give months of winter picking and superb taste?
Now we are into September, do not be tempted to hang on to any of these late winter treasures. They are starting to respond to the increasing day lengths and temperatures by shooting to flower and then seed.
We have eaten all of our carrots and parsnips but are still enjoying beets, kale, winter salad and cabbages. The red ball heads and my favourite, the huge savoys, have been amazing. The lack of winter rain stopped them opening up and cracking but they will not hold very much longer.
Last week I made the decision to go out and pick them all and have just finished slicing, salting and packing them into my sauerkraut pot. I also had enough to give to friends, along with compulsory pumpkins which are also coming to the end of their storage life.
The remaining beetroots and salad will be harvested this coming week opening up a large area to be dug and composted for the coming summer garden.
Meanwhile the garlic, broad beans and peas are starting to grow. No second chance with garlic but it is not too late to plant broad beans and peas again now. It’s also time to get started with lots of other seeds particularly if you have a greenhouse or warm, sunny spot.
As I watch the seeds emerge I get impatient about savouring the fresh tastes of spring. Hurry up asparagus, come on peas!
There really is no beginning or end to the vegetable growing year – just reassuring seasonal change.
What I’m Picking:
Seeds I’m Planting:
Broccoli (Winter Varieties)
Cabbage–Early Ball Heads, Sugarloaf
Chinese Leafy Greens–Mizuna, Pak Choi, Senposai
Lettuce–Cos, Salad Bowl
Mesclun Salad Mix
Peas–Shelling, Snow &sugar Snap Peas
Joyce Wilkie has farmed vegetables and free-range poultry at Allsun Farm, Gundaroo for decades. Educating people about where their food comes from and teaching them how to grow it is her abiding passion.