With the daylight hours on a rapid decline, it is time to think about planning for winter. A winter food garden can be just as rewarding as a summer garden and, with food prices up 7% already, it is definitely worth having a garden all year round.
Growing in winter can be a lot easier than in summer too, as there is no stress about water and definitely not so much stress about pests, because most of them like to overwinter until the following spring.
Juicy heads of broccoli, that perfect cauliflower, leeks for a hearty winter soup, delicious sweet carrots and roasted beetroot. What’s not to love? Yum yum!
Step one – take time to plan your bed rotations
Before clearing your summer garden away, make a note of what has been growing there and if it did well or not. Then plant the next rotation plant in its place.
If you have had leafy producing and above-ground plants, it would be great to plant roots next, like beetroot, carrots, and garlic. Garlic particularly likes to go where tomatoes have been.
Remember if planting carrots, they will not need any more compost or fertiliser, as this will cause them to grow in mysterious shapes.
Also, if you have planted beans this year, remember they are a legume and will have fixed nitrogen to the soil for you, which will affect what you decide to plant next.
Want to know more about the importance of crop rotations? Discover my blog on Five reasons why you should be rotating your crops.
Step two – clear and dispose with care and consideration
When clearing your garden, make sure you dispose of infected plants and do not put them in the compost. This will only spread disease – unless you are making super-hot compost or processing via bokashi.
Fungal diseases will not die in your compost pile, so I urge you to be careful in particular with blight on tomatoes and potatoes. I completely avoid putting any tomato or potato plants in my compost, just in case they take disease with them. I ferment everything via bokashi in barrel with a lid and then, after 30 days, I add this to a compost heap where it will go through another process, just to make sure. This is my second year doing this and, so far, it has been working well.
As an aside, I have had a pretty good year for tomatoes with minimum blight, especially given a La Niña climate. My tomato plants went in the ground in November, after my return from overseas, so they didn’t have to suffer the weather of the early spring. I did experience a bit of blossom end rot, for which I have fed liquid calcium and the plant has come right and is producing greatly.
Step three – plan ahead to replenish your beds
Take the time while planning your winter garden to decide which beds you will rest over winter. Also decide which beds you will plant with a green manure crop to replenish their soils.
With the beds that have suffered serious fungus like powdery mildew, I would always recommend planting a quick mustard crop as this cleans the soil of harmful fungi.
If you choose to be a summer gardener only, take notes on where you have planted this summer to enable a good rotation next summer, and remember your garden will benefit from a green manure crop over the winter period.
Learn more about green manure crops in my past blog, Focus on green manure crops – what are they and why do they benefit my garden.
Step four – don’t let anything go to waste!
I urge you to gather and enjoy every single fruit and vegetable that your garden blesses you with. For example, a glut of tomatoes can be a marvellous thing and I am just about to embark on making my green tomato chutney with the tomatoes that were blown off in the cyclone. Waste not want not, as food security has never been more important! Put some love into your garden gluts and make sauces and chutneys that can continue to feed you all winter long.