Winter has arrived and with it the cold wind and rain. But cold weather can improve the taste of your vegetables.
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 elementmagazine.co.nz, or simply visit bit.ly/119NJMh