In his first column for the Sunday Tasmanian’s Tassie Living magazine, TINO CARNEVALE picks up where his mentor Peter Cundall left off.
Celebrates winter’s passing parade
Peter Cundall has been dishing out knowledge in spades for longer than I can remember and he has inspired and educated generations of gardeners, including this one, so it is with great privilege and not a small amount of sadness that I follow in his gumboot tracks.
I might be in the minority, but I find a cold Tasmanian winter to be every bit as beautiful and vibrant as any of the other seasons. There are loads of plants, especially many natives, that seem to shine over the cold months and also those plants that slow down and tuck themselves in to sleep for the winter.
It is nice to see the bones of your garden laid bare as the winter descends. It gives you a different perspective of your garden and many of the jobs you do now should see you through til the start of spring.
Whereas weeding in the warmer months can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility, winter allows you to get on top of and stay on top of this aspect of your garden. Clearing out your weeds over the winter is not just for its aesthetic value, many insect and fungal pests will persist in weed species like mallow and plantain if they are left in the ground. Pulling your weeds out now denies them this harbour and helps to keep pest numbers down when spring comes along.
The great thing about the vegetable patch over the winter period is most of the crops are either cut and come again or set and forget.
Although there is a generally positive consensus in my family when it comes to the Fava or Broadbean, I know it can be quite a divisive crop in some households, however, I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone loves a pea.
Both will grow steadily over the winter and although the peas will produce sooner, you will be harvesting bucket loads of both crops when the weather warms in the spring. These legumes are also good as a cover or green manure crop to improve soil structure and fertility and if you sow them now you can have them up, dug back through your soil and broken down in time for your spring plantings.
If you think you have missed the boat when it comes to those wonderfully stinky bulbs that are alliums then never fear, there is still time. Granted the size of your garlic,
I might be in the minority, but I find a cold Tasmanian winter to be every bit as beautiful and vibrant as any of the other seasons
onions or shallots may be lesser than if planted earlier in the season, but it would seem a shame if you missed out on these completely for the sake of a few weeks.
Leaves are the one thing I can really rely on in my garden over winter. Many leafy crops like spinach and lettuce can go in now from seed but remember growth is slow when it’s cold so I always put in way more than I think I need.
When it comes to choosing lettuce varieties I go for the leafy type that won’t form a heart such as oak leaves and corals. I leave the growing of the hearted varieties like iceberg for the warmer months when they form up well.
You can also be throwing around seed of Brassicas like mustard, tatsoi, kale and mizuna. The great thing about growing any brassicas over the winter is that many of their pests are dormant through the cold.
A great way of warming up on a frosty morn is to dig and if you plan to put in a deciduous tree this winter, now is a great time to prepare the hole in anticipation for when they are on sale next month. A generous sized hole with a good amount of compost and a handful of lime added will get the blood moving and the soil will settle down nicely in time for your tree to hit the ground running.
On those exceptionally cold and wet days you can usually find me in my shed cleaning and sharpening tools and while sometimes this may be an excuse to have some quality shed time, it is not time wasted. Cutting tools like loppers and secateurs will be getting a workout over the next few months. Pruning your deciduous trees and shrubs in winter is a good opportunity to see the shape and structure of the plant without its kit on. Prune any dead, diseased or damaged branches and then prune for shape but beware of cutting drastically as this will cause the plant to put lots of effort into vegetation in spring, usually at the expense of flowers and fruit.
Frosty conditions are on their way! Feed your tender plants with a dash of sulfate of potash, this will help them become more resistant to frost’s damaging effects. Having a bunch of old sheets stowed close at hand to throw over plants on those cold clear nights when a frost seems likely can save you a return trip to the nursery.
I know it can be hard to drag yourself out into the garden when it’s cold but know that those Baltic conditions mean that our delicious cool climate fruits will be all the better for it next season. I hope that helps to warm your heart on those cold winter mornings.