Winter wonders for your veggie patch
By: Katie Eastment
Winter is here. While it may be cold and dark, it's the ideal time to start prepping your veggie patch for spring harvesting.
As our climate varies between regions, there’s no clear rulebook on how to give your sprouts the best chance of survival in a New Zealand winter. What you decide to plant and how you’ll maintain your glorious garden will all depend on where you live. Here’s what you should be doing this winter to ensure your veggie patch is thriving.
Take your tools out
Before you get started you need to make sure all your gardening tools are sharpened, clean and oiled. Using vegetable oil is a good alternative to the more expensive oils that are on the market and can also be used on the wooden handles, giving you a much smoother gardening experience and assure your work is clean and easy. Essential tools you need in your kit are a spade, hoe, hand trowel, gardening fork and a durable pair of gloves.
Be down to earth
Next, you’ll likely need to prep your soil in time for winter. Working and turning the soil two to three times a year is crucial because soil can become hard over time which is damaging for plants. If you notice that your soil is dense or mostly made up of clay, add plenty of well-rotted compost to nourish your soil and provide the nutrients that your plants are going to need to survive through the winter. For lighter soils, you can add a mulch to the surface which the worms will work in for you. This will increase the fertility of the soil and reduce the amount of weed growth.
Time to sow your seedlings
Once your soil is prepped and fertile, it’s time to plant your seedlings. Make sure that the soil is moist and rich, planting the seeds about a palms length apart and one inch deep, in consecutive rows. Top with a high phosphorus fertilizer. This will be beneficial for the organisms in the soil that help enhance the growth of your veggies. Lastly, don’t forget to give plenty of water to your seeds each day.
Learn which plants flourish in your environment
New Zealand is typically dominated by two geographical landscapes, the cool mountains and the warmer coastal region.
For those in the mountains, it’s recommended not to plant anything outside. Just cover your soil in a layer of manure to let it nourish over the winter. However, if you have an eager green thumb, and are really keen on growing your own crop, you could stick to planting veggies that resist the cold like brassicas, leafy greens and winter lettuce. Covering the seedlings and roots in plenty of mulch will keep the soil warmer and help enhance the germination process, which is especially necessary if you live in a cooler region.
The best vegetables to sow in winter according to your climate and location:
- North Island (subtropical) – beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, celery, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, strawberries
- South Island (temperate) – broad beans, cabbage, kale, lettuce, peas, radish, shallots, snow peas
- Mountains (cool climate) – Brussels sprouts, garlic, mustard greens, onion, radish, spinach
Top tips for the growing gardener
If you live in an area that gets a lot of frost overnight it could be detrimental to the seedlings. If this is the case, try covering your veggie patch with a clear shower curtain (or something similar) until the seeds start to sprout. This will cause a ‘greenhouse effect’ and absorb the suns heat throughout the day, releasing it evenly throughout the night to prevent frost.
Planting a veggie patch in winter can be challenging, but growing a winter garden is achievable and completely worth the effort. If you’re really keen to get your thumbs green this winter, get to know your environment, plan ahead and follow these easy steps. You’ll be grateful in spring when you’re harvesting your own fresh produce and serving it up on the dinner table.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Resimac.