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Sustainable Life: What to plant in your winter veggie patch

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Winter’s midday sun is calling. Time to get into the veggie patch and grow happy as the veggies grow tall.

There’s a different pace in a winter veggie patch. It’s gentle. It’s slow. It’s re-energising. Here’s what you can plant on a Canberran winter day.

Broad beans

These super-hardy, nitrogen-fixing beans are a real joy to grow. Plant seeds directly into your veggie patch anytime from late autumn, through winter and into early spring, spacing plants in two rows, about 15 cm apart.

Broad beans prefer full sun and lightly manured soil, but they’re not fussy and will grow in almost any conditions, as long as the weather is cool. As they grow, broad beans can benefit from being loosely tied up, with string around the outside of the rows. Broad beans have a lovely pea-shaped flower, that grows from the bottom of the stem. Flowers then transform into long pods, which contain the broad beans.

Harvest your broad beans early, while the pods contain tender, sweet beans. These early broad beans can be eaten raw, or lightly steamed. If you leave the pods on your plants, then your broad beans will grow long and fat.

You’ll need to pod these beans, remove outer-part of these older beans and lightly steam or sauté before eating.

Snow Peas

Snow peas are at home with a light dusting of snow-look-alike frost. Their tender shoots are perfect in winter salads, even before they produce lovely flowers and sweet pea pods in the springtime. Snow peas and sugar snap peas are favourites because you can eat the whole pea. This makes them perfect for little hands to harvest and eat directly in the veggie garden.

Plant snow or sugar snap peas directly into your garden bed, from late autumn to early spring. Prepare the soil with a little worm wee. No need for lots of fertiliser, as peas are nitrogen fixers and they’ll create quite a bit of their own food.

Space your seeds in two rows, approximately 5–10 cm apart. Provide your snow and sugar snap peas with a structure to climb up to 1.5m high—a wire trellis or tepee from the winter’s fruit tree pruning.

Leafy greens

Lettuce, English spinach and Silverbeet are delicious leafy greens that thrive in a late-winter veggie patch. For the best results, raise your seeds indoors and plant seedlings in August for a crop in the springtime.

Want those leafy greens sooner? Consider growing your whole crop in a pot that’s inside, or located in a warm spot against the side of your home.

Leafy greens like soil that’s enriched with plenty of compost, a sunny location and regular watering.

Asparagus

You’ll need a permanent place in your veggie garden for this hipster essential—successful asparagus crowns can crop for 20 years. Choose a place with plenty of sunlight, at the back of your garden—so you’re not working around the asparagus patch as you rotate other crops.

Enrich your soil. Asparagus is a heavy, heavy feeder. Then, dig trenches about 15 cm deep and bury your asparagus crowns in the trenches, leaving about 5cm of rich soil above the top of the crowns. Your crowns will throw up asparagus spears in early spring. In the first year, let every spear grow into a fern so the plants can properly establish. Ferns will die away each wintertime, a perfect time to fertilise.

In the plants’ second spring, harvest your asparagus spears when they’re 15-20 cm tall. Be vigilant, spears grow at least 2cm each day and if you’re not careful, a spear can get too big and become woody.

Artichokes

This hardy thistle produces a famously tasty flower. You’ll need a permanent place in the veggie patch, with lots of sunlight and a lovely, rich soil. The fully grown plant is about 1.5m tall and 80cm wide.

Artichoke runners (or seedlings) can be planted in the wintertime. The plant is adorned with spectacular grey-green leaves. In the springtime, each plant produces several edible flowers.

Harvest your artichoke flowers when they’re still young and compact. If you leave the flower too long, it will burst open into a purple, royal-looking thistle flower.

Young artichoke flowers are best steamed and then served with olive oil, lemon juice and a dash of salt.

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