My winter garden plan

by Farmer Liz
As summer draws to a close here in Queensland, Australia, its time to reflect on what worked and what didn't, and start to plan for winter planting.

This summer the successes were:

  • Cherry tomatoes - the random compost sprouting tomatoes provided enough for salads, but it would have been nice to have more of them to freeze

  • Beans - this year I managed to protect my green beans from cattle (although Bella took an early interest) and even though the chickens launched a late attack on anything that came over their side of the fence, I managed to harvest a decent amount for eating and freezing - 3 climbing plants and 3 bush plants were sufficient. 

  • Potatoes - I planted most of them in a drum and the leftovers in the garden.  Ironically it was the leftovers that did really well, I think the drum ones got too hot.   

  • Basil - last year it grew to one meter before I noticed, this year I pinched off all the growth tips every few days and produced a lovely little bush of basil :)
  • Mini capsicums - one plant survived the frost and is thriving, although I can't take any credit, I just cut it back and left it alone!
  • Spring onions - always a winner!  
  • Herbs - all except the mints did well, think it got too hot and dry, they look miserable, but still alive.
  • Radishes - first time I've grown these and they did well until we had some very hot days.
  • Lettuce - did well until I tried to plant some seedlings on a hot HOT day and they all died.
  • Button squash - I did have some blossom end rot issues and could have done with some more squashes for the freezer.
  • Pickling cucumbers - 3 vines was plenty!  8 jars of pickles in the fridge and more that I gave away already. 

  • Shade - beans, arrowroot and pawpaw plants provided shade on all sides and the shade cloth provided shade up above, I think this saved some of the more delicate veges on the hottest summer days.
beans shading one end of the garden

arrowroot shading another side
and pawpaws shading the other end
The failures were:
  • Corn - started too late as I didn't have viable seed and then got swamped by my companion planted squash!   

  • Zuchinnis - after yielding only 2-3 zuchinnis the 4 plants wilted and died!  I want to try trombochino next - supposed to be more hardy and as a climber won't take up so much space
  • Peas - need to try not planting them next to the onions!  They seem to produce most in spring and summer, don't like too hot or too cold, should I try another variety?
  • Pumpkins - I started them early, expecting Dec rain like last year and then it was just hot and dry, so most withered, some are still going, but no pumpkins so far!
  • Eggplant - I started early, but found that my seed was too old, bought more seeds and finally raised 4 plants, waited for months, and had 4 tine eggplants before the plants died.  Questioning whether its worth the effort.
The lessons were:
  • Plant more tomatoes
  • Start potatoes, eggplant and corn earlier
  • Plant corn before squash
  • Plant lettuce early so its established before the weather gets too hot
  • Water the pumpkins - use golden nuggets as they are nice small plants and might fit into the garden
  • Don't plant peas with onions
Plans for winter
Thinking back over my gardening experience, this is really the first winter that I've planned for as such.  When we were in the Lockyer Valley we didn't have bad frost, so I just kept growing the same things I was growing over summer and I was still getting to know the garden.  And the past two winters that we've been in Nanango, the first year I only just had the garden started, so I didn't grow much besides silverbeet and the second year I was distracted by us buying our milking cow and trying to sell the other house.  So this is my first winter in Nanango in which I am trying to prepare by planting suitable veges that will survive the frost and provide us with fresh veges over winter.

I'm also secretly hoping that we will have our aquaponics greenhouse set up by then, and maybe I'll be a growing some warmer climate plants in there, but not counting on it!

I’m not sure yet the ideal time to start planting for winter.  Its easy for summer, as soon as its warm enough I will try to make a start on tomatoes and eggplant, zucchinis and beans, but for winter the timing is more difficult as I’m not sure when my summer plants will be finished and ready to pull out of the garden.  It really depends on the timing of the first frost, and I don’t have enough local knowledge to know when that will be, so I'm going to start growing from seed over the next few weeks and planting seedlings out among the remaining summer plants and I hope we don't have a crazy heat wave that kills everything!  That way I get to keep harvesting the last of the tomatoes and squash until I have to pull them out.

Winter veges that I want to plant this year include:
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (hello more sauerkraut!)
  • Mustard greens
  • Silver beet and chard
  • Root veges – carrots, turnip, swede, beetroot, radish
  • Garlic
  • Broad beans
  • Peas
  • Mushrooms
The only things on the list that I've grown successfully before are broccoli, silverbeet, mustard greens and peas, so all the rest will be new.

I'm planning on planting my four beds like this:
  • bed 1 - broad beans and peas
  • bed 2 - onions and herbs
  • bed 3 - brassicaceae (that's where they were last season, but they are self-seeding, so I can't be bothered digging them all up and moving them!) and silver beet
  • bed 4 - root vegetables 
When I was planning for winter, I used a book that my sister in law gave me, called Organic Vegetable Gardening, which is written for Australian conditions.  I used this book to see which veges would grow over winter in my area, how difficult they are to grow and how to start from seed.  Amazingly I found that each vegetable also had a section on how to save the seeds, I can't believe I didn't notice it before, especially as I was complaining that I didn't have a decent book on the subject in my previous post on saving seeds, its great to know that I had a my book shelf the entire time and that it contains so much useful detail, I just need to find time to read what I already own!]

What are you planting this Winter?

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