Winter is Coming…

I have actually never watched Game of Thrones (I know, right), but when I was telling my friend Olly about my article he said it would be a good title. So thanks Olly, this goes out to you!

Winter is not a season famous for its vegetable growing, but there are some vegetables that will serve you well through the cooler weather. To make your life simple I have selected a few vegetables that I have had success with around this time of year in my Christchurch garden, and hopefully you will have some joy with them too. At this point it is worth a mention that Christchurch conditions are different to other parts of country so before you put roots to earth, have a google and double check your climate is in the same ball park as mine. Also, have a peek at what is going in gardens in your neighbourhood. As we are still taking it easy and it can be complicated and time consuming to get seeds to germinate at this time of year, lets just buy the plants for now.

Silverbeet (aka Chard): I have always found this iron rich, leafy vege easy to grow in summer or winter, and with so many different varieties available I’m sure you’ll find one that appeals. I just grew some Rainbow Beet last season which was a nice change. When buying your plants, read the label and see if there are any tips on ideal growing conditions, after all, every type is slightly different. Generally speaking, I would pop these plants in a small box garden or a sunny spot in your larger garden that has some shelter from the weather. Next to a fence is perfect. If you are going to plant in a garden box the same rules of planting apply as do the herbs in my last post. My only additional tip would be to think about adding in some of the soil from your garden and blend it with your potting mix. This should make your potting mix go a bit further, and I have found it helpful with plants that might take a while to crop. As per usual, ensure your plants have good drainage, but can hold their moisture if not being placed immediately into the earth. Regardless of which route you go down with this, your plants will need space to develop without getting cluttered. They’ll need around 15-30cm between each plant. Once they are in, give them a water every now and again if the rain isn’t doing that for you, and keep an eye out for foreign nibbles. These plants can attract many a hungry bug but I’ll post my tips on how to get on top of that next time. Cut this plant leaf by leaf as you cook with it and the plant will keep growing.

Peas: These are one of my favourite things to grow, and I still can’t resist plucking pods of peas from the plant and eating them raw whilst walking around my garden. Again, there are different types of peas and I would advise picking the plants that are a winter breed of some sort. Plant peas straight into the earth with about 5cm between plants to give them room to grow. Be gentle with their roots. Peas need as much sunlight as physically possible, and because you are going to most likely train them to grow up something pushed into the ground, you can afford to sacrifice some shelter for more sunlight. Whilst these plants are young try to pay them a visit every day just to check they are getting enough water ,and to check that their tender little shoots are not getting battered around in the weather. As they grow, try to gently manoeuvre their stems around sticks of bamboo. I have also seen old, unused bike wheels dug into the ground with peas growing off them. Makes sense to me and looks super cool, as well as getting those pods off the wet ground as soon as possible.

Spinach: This plant is pretty similar to growing Silverbeet, but because of the size of the plants you have a little more space for creativity in your choice of what to plant them in. I have successfully grown spinach in plastic tubs as well as in my big garden, and there is something special about growing baby spinach in tubs. Spinach is something a household could easily go through quickly as it is so versatile. You can eat it raw in a salad or cook it into quiches, pies, soups, curries or pop a few fresh leaves in your morning smoothie. My advice is get more plants than you think you will need because you may end up falling in love with it and I wouldn’t want you get caught short. These need good drainage and while they need good, moist soil, you also don’t want too much water sitting around the plant, especially in the first few weeks after planting. If you are worried about this after you have planted then consider adding some pea straw or something similar around the base of the plant. The joy with tubs is that if you suspect your plants aren’t getting enough sunlight then just move them, and since you can plant them in a cluster and remain pretty short in the garden, it’s unlikely they will cut off sunlight to your other plants. Which is a bonus.

Well, garden buds, I hope that helps. In the weeks ahead I’ll be looking into how to deal with unwanted visitors in your garden (and no I don’t mean nosey next door neighbours, although you will get them. My neighbour and I practically had a garden war last summer- his tomatoes vs my corn) like bugs, slugs and birds, as well as how to make your own mini glasshouse. Keep up the good work through the cold weeks and remember to email me with any questions or success photos. Keep it real. #gardenswag

– E Cus.

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