Cold com­fort

With the short­est day now be­hind us, thoughts turn to pre­par­ing and plant­ing for spring growth.

Element - - Lifestyle - JANET LUKE

Ripe for the pick­ing

Pump­kins, car­rots and swedes are in plen­ti­ful sup­ply and make great win­ter soups. Try some Florence fennel in stir frys or soups for a won­der­ful aniseed flavour. All the bras­si­cas such as cab­bage, cauliflower and broc­coli are avail­able fresh too.

In the veg­etable gar­den

If your gar­den has re­ceived a down­pour of the wet stuff it is best to try and stay off the gar­den beds. Wet cold soil will just be­come wet, com­pacted mud if trod­den on. If you re­ally need to get on a gar­den bed to har­vest or plant a good trick is to form a gang­plank with a long board and two wooden blocks or bricks. This way you avoid com­press­ing the soil. There are still many cold-loving crops you can plant this month. Sil­ver­beet and spinach seedlings can be planted as can broc­coli, cab­bage, car­rots and onions. If your soil is very wet try cre­at­ing a lit­tle free drain­ing haven around your plants by dig­ging a small hole and fill­ing with pot­ting mix­ture be­fore sowing the seedlings. If your area is frost­free you can think about get­ting some early pota­toes in. Ilam Hardy is a va­ri­ety which does well when the weather is still on the chilly side. If you planted any green ma­nure crops (ni­tro­gen fix­ing plants such as lupin or beans) in Au­tumn they may be ready to dig in. I do it the lazy way. Cut the green growth off at the plant’s knees and just drop the veg­e­ta­tion on the ground to slowly rot down in time for spring plant­ing. If you haven’t planted any gar­lic yet no need to de­spair – just get it in this month. Even in a small space you could grow some gar­lic in a large pot on your bal­cony. Choose soil which is free-drain­ing, weed-free and has a re­cent ap­pli­ca­tion of gar­den lime. I just use some cloves from last year’s batch but fail­ing that visit your lo­cal farm­ers' mar­ket and buy some lo­cally grown gar­lic. Choose the big­gest cloves to re grow. Plant each clove with the pointy end fac­ing up and around 5 cm deep.

Herbs

Chick­weed ( Stel­laria me­dia)

It is said that chick­weed grows in ev­ery part of the world. In most New Zealand gar­dens it is not hard to find! It re­veals in win­ter weather. It has small green leaves and a del­i­cate, tiny white flower. It grows by trail­ing along the ground, and thrives in any damp, shady ar­eas. The leaves are loved by chick­ens and small quan­ti­ties of it can also be added to sal­ads or stir-frys.

False car­damom ( Elet­taria car­damo­mum)

This an­cient spice looks like ginger which is of no sur­prise as it is a close cousin. False car­damom does not pro­duce seeds but the leaves are very aro­matic and can be used at the end of cook­ing to im­part the same flavour. You can buy this plant on­line – try Ginny’s Herbs. It re­quires a warm spot to grow well.

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