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Planting winter vegies

Helen McKerral

Helen McKerral

March 26, 2013

For the first time I have room for a swathe of winter vegies – how exciting! The handful I planted last year were disappointing because they were planted too late (see my Pests Diseases and Mistakes blog post). Oh well, the chickens enjoyed them!

You’ll find a huge amount of information in vegetable planting guides, but your garden’s microclimate can extend/ delay the season by six weeks or longer. My old garden, with its southerly aspect and dappled shade, was about five weeks later than the Adelaide Plains with regards to spring planting, and I’m still learning the idiosyncrasies of the new area.

New seedlings are already up

Not only microclimates vary, but seasons can be early or late too, so planting guides are just that – guides – and not set in concrete. One of my favourite guides is the decades-old Department of Agriculture publication “Your Vegetable Garden: A guide to Home Vegetable Growing in South Australia”, which differentiates between the Adelaide Hills/southeast and Adelaide Plains regions and, importantly, whether growing from seed or seedlings.

Newer local resources include Jon Lamb’s Home Grown SA, Bruce Morphett’s Kitchen Garden and Sophie Thomson’s From the Ground Up. Local radio programs usually include a weekly summary of to “what to plant now” in your immediate region: Green Fingers and the ABC Vegie Guide provide online resources.

Zucchini flowers already - I hope they'll fruit before the autumn chills

Zucchini flowers already – I hope they’ll fruit before the autumn chills

In any case, a little experimentation is always fun – I planted zucchini in February, really a bit late for a summer vegetable especially in the Adelaide Hills, but here it is in early March, and they’re already flowering. My harvest (or lack of one!) will all depend on this year’s season, and when the autumn chills arrive.

At least this year my winter vegies are almost all in. The carrots are up, the coriander is germinating, the lettuce are thriving. My brassica bed has cavolo nero, caulis, bok choy, sprouting broccoli… and I’ve just realised I’ve forgotten the red cabbage and the parsnips! I’m not sure if I’ll have room for Brussels sprouts.

Leeks and the brassica bed

The lettuce is thriving

The lettuce is thriving

This year, I’ve incorporated a generous dressing of garden lime, and dug in mushroom compost, which may be too alkaline for many plants, like currants and blueberries, but which is ideal for vegies in my acid soil. As well, I splurged on a bag of Fishers Creek Rock Dust. This organic fertiliser is reportedly excellent at correcting trace element deficiencies – a feature that most manure or compost-based 100% organic fertilisers lack. The product covers a much larger area than you expect in the garden but, at more than $45 per 20kg bag, it’s the kind of soil additive I’ll probably only use in the early stages of soil improvement.

Leeks planted in shallow trenches

Leeks planted in shallow trenches

I popped a punnet of leeks into shallow trenches, probably not quite deep enough (you gradually fill in the trenches as leeks grow to “blanch” more of the stem underground), but, though it might look a bit odd, I can simply hill them up more above the original soil level instead.

Rainbow chardTogether with red cabbage and red lettuces, beetroot and rainbow chard provide colour. Perpetual spinach and rocket are dead easy to grow as well. My local wholesale seedling supplier Falgs Nursery has perpetual lettuce and perpetual coriander varieties, which are slow-to-bolt in spring, and which I’ll try as well as soon as they become available.

Two entire beds – the biggest – still lie fallow, because it’s simply too big a job – and too expensive – to prepare them all at the same time. In the meantime, I’ll add rock dust and Rapid Raiser and chook compost and whatever I have handy. If I have time, I’ll sow a green manure crop of broadbeans and fork them in next spring, and lay the irrigation then too. Much as I’d like to fill the whole garden at once (sadly no room for peas or beans this season), I know the unprepared beds will simply get weedy, dry and pest- and disease-ridden if I bite off more than I can chew. Better to add one bed at a time and have each one succeed, even though it’s hard to be patient!

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Julie Thomson
10 years ago

Great to read that Helen and a real thumb in the back for me. Our March has been wet and humid – more like the December and January climes of old, and having been away for three weeks and returned with a swathe of books, and frequent rainy days, I am disgustingly slow at getting out of the novels and back into the garden. Your vegie plantings are just the push I need, and the soil is very soft and ready, too.
Hoping all visitors stay away this Easter so we can get a good run in the patch. I am partic keen to plant red lettuces and red cabbage.
Our soil tends to acidic, too, so the lime and mushroom compost additions work well.