Growing vegetables in your garden during winter is no walk in the park. Frosty mornings and the lack of warm sun is enough to deter healthy plants from thriving. To help keep your thumbs green in the cold (instead of blue with cold), local gardening expert and leading horticulturalist, Tracey Bool, shares her top tips for winter gardening.
“Firstly, at this time of year it’s difficult to grow vegetables. Ideally, with winter vegetables, you’ll start growing seeds in February or March.
“Hearty vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are great to grow, and you can transplant artichoke and asparagus, sow seeds of broad beans and peas, and you can transplant seedlings of silverbeet and spinach.
“It’s important to remember that if you purchase seedings from a nursery, you will need to climatise them before planting. To do that, you just have to get them used to the local conditions for about a week or so before you plant them out.
“For existing produce that’s been established, you can put a liquid organic fertiliser on them every fortnight to keep them ticking over during winter.
“For frost-sensitive plants, or ones planted a bit later in the season, you can put temporary ‘cloches’ on them – like a frost cloth. Just cut the bottom off a soft drink container and put it on top of them.
“With citrus plants, if you have them in pots you can move them somewhere a bit more protected, like a courtyard. There’s not a lot you can do during the middle of winter except put up protection for some plants, use fertiliser every couple of weeks, and top dress existing garden beds with organic matter. That final layer helps to feed the soil and the plants.”
“Good plants to grow are philodendrons, anthuriums, and sphathiphyllums. Indoor plants need less water than they would usually in summer, and they don’t need too much attention. Dusting the leaves is good to do and you can use liquid fertiliser designed for indoor plants, which isn’t too strong.
“You can have trouble with fungus gnats at this time of year – it’s quite common. To keep them under control, try not to overwater your plants and definitely do not sit them in water. You can remove the top bit of potting mix and replace it, as that’s where their seeds are and they breed in the surface. Or put a small pebble layer on top of your pot.
“Hardy plants are your best chance during winter, whether they’re veggies or ornamental, but don’t plant anything other than hardy plants. But generally, I’d say avoid planting until it starts to warm up in the spring.
“Winter is a good opportunity for cleaning and maintenance, and sharpening tools. I’d recommend you go and talk to your local nursery for advice before you go planting.”
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