Cold com­fort

Win­ter has ar­rived and with it the cold wind and rain. But cold weather can im­prove the taste of your veg­eta­bles.

Element - - Gardening - JANET LUKE GAR­DEN­ING

Ripe for the pick­ing You’ll be com­ing to the end of your fei­joas, de­pend­ing on when your tree be­gan to pro­duce. The pulp can be scooped out and frozen to be used for muffins and cakes at a later date. Aubergines are also in sea­son as are kale, beet­root, broc­coli and cab­bages. Figs, man­darins, rhubarb, lemon, grapes and new sea­son ap­ples are all avail­able fresh from the gar­den this month. Get pavlova-bak­ing to make use of all the passionfruit at the mo­ment. To store passionfruit I scoop out the pulp and then freeze in ice­block trays. Veg­etable gar­den Thin out any seed sown car­rots, parsnips, let­tuces or beet­root seedlings. There is no easy way to do this and I al­ways find bare hands are bet­ter than gloves. Care­fully pull any weeds and stunted plants to give the vig­or­ous seedlings the room and sun­light they need. Use the pulled seedlings as mi­cro­greens in sal­ads or stir-fries. Mound up the soil around your de­vel­op­ing leeks. This en­sures that they grow a long, white and ten­der stem. A good trick is to slip an empty toi­let roll or handy towel roll onto the plant and then mound up the soil around this. The card­board roll pre­vents soil get­ting into the folds of the leek. As­para­gus plants can now be cut back to about 10 cm above the soil. Re­move the ferny top growth with­out dis­lodg­ing any of the red seeds. Add th­ese cut­tings to the com­post. Side dress the as­para­gus with sea­weed, straw or com­post. I pre­fer to gather some storm-blown sea­weed from the coast as this re­minds the plants of their roots. They nat­u­rally grow as a sea­side plant. Herbs The colder months are rel­ished by the herbs co­rian­der and pars­ley. No more bolt­ing to seed for them for the next 4-5 months. With your other herbs this is a good time to give them all a good hair­cut and put them to bed for the win­ter. You can save all the stem trim­mings and gather them up and hang them in a gar­den, glasshouse or gar­den shed. Al­ter­na­tively place in plas­tic bags, label and freeze to use in soups and casseroles over the win­ter months. Fruit Plant out straw­berry plants as soon as they are avail­able. Plant­ing new straw­ber­ries in win­ter can in­crease plant vigour and thus pro­duce more fruit in sum­mer. Al­low about six plants per fam­ily mem­ber. More if you have kids! Plant them in a sunny po­si­tion. Add lots of fresh com­post to the area and then mound up the soil and plant at the top. This raised as­pect al­lows good drainage and air cir­cu­la­tion. Go to your lo­cal parks armed with a plas­tic bag and col­lect any fallen wal­nuts.

So­phie Bar­clay’s monthly per­ma­cul­ture col­umn can be found this month on our web­site el­e­ment­, or sim­ply visit

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