Getting ready for the winter
being inspected, re-potted if needed, mulched and fertilised, pruned and washed and placed somewhere warm and light for the winter.
SPREAD OUT SEEDLINGS
If you left your summer vegetables to go to seed, and left your weeds to grow until you could identify them, you should have an abundance of seedlings popping up through the vegetable garden now. I use a lot of these as micogreens – cutting the rocket, mizuna, lettuces and spinach as baby leaves into my salads – but since I can never get enough spinach in winter I have spaced out a dozen or so of my free seedlings in various places around the garden.
Brassicas – cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli – I don’t do on such a large scale. One of these per week is all we can eat, so I transplant just one or two seedlings at a time. The others, left squished together where they have grown, don’t do so well, so I wait before transplanting them, to stagger the crop.
Miner’s lettuce is a winter staple and I leave each year’s crop to go to seed. It is just starting to regrow among the dying tomatoes now but the first two leaves are long and thin and look nothing like the normal fat, round, juicy leaves. As with everything that pops up in my garden, I wait for the second set of leaves so I can identify it before pulling anything out. I don’t transplant my miner’s lettuce – it just happily grows wherever (and more) and I let it take over a whole bed.
TUCK THEM UP
We can get heavy frosts in the first week of May so I’m already preparing any precious, frosttender and small plants to withstand the cold.
First defence is a couple of sprays of seaweed tea every three weeks, to strengthen up existing growth, and then withholding any nitrogenous feed, which would induce fresh autumn growth that would be frost tender.
Then I use a collection of frost cloths and heat sinks. Over the years I’ve tried everything from biodynamic sprays to bubble wrap, but my best strategy has been to mulch the soil well, place two 20L containers of old oil (my husband is a mechanic so these are readily available) on the south side of the plant, and throw a frost cloth over the lot on clear evenings.
The mulch holds warmth in the ground and the drums absorb heat during the day and release it at night. Frost cloth creates a little cocoon of warmth during the cold early morning hours. Frosts only happen on clear, still days, so the cloth is opened up in the morning to allow maximum light and heat to be absorbed during the day. When it’s wet and windy, the cloth is left to one side as it can do more damage than good.
My tomato crop was dismal this year. Thank goodness my parents had excess. My plants grew well enough, but it was the green vege bugs sucking the juice out of them and turning their inner layer white and hard that ruined them.
I tried to catch and squash the little blighters (a smelly job) but finding them among the dense growth of my bush tomatoes was tricky.
I’ve now pulled out all the plants, tied them into rubbish bags and am leaving them to rot in the sun. I’m all for composting but I want to ensure those vegetable bugs are well dead.
I also threw some quince tree prunings that looked like they had fireblight on the fire. The tree has had a good feed of compost and a spray of copper to sanitise it.
Disinfect all tools after working with diseased matter and ensure it is removed and or destroyed in such a way that the bacteria or fungus is killed. Unless you do super-hot composting, this is not usually enough and can spread the problem around your garden. Burning and bagging are my favourites or this, the one
This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz instance when I would advocate taking matter to the green-waste dump.