Winter vegetable gardening in the sub-tropics

Apr 18 2016 0 Comments Tags: garden, sub-tropical, vegetables

Northern Hemisphere gardeners are currently preparing for spring planting, so you'd think I'd be packing up the garden for winter, but in the sub-tropics there's plenty that we can grow, even with a few frosty days.

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
This is my garden in autumn, it is a jungle and I can't even begin to explain
what is going on here, it had a mind of its own!

Summer here can be hit and miss, depending if we get rain.  Some years are too dry and hardly anything will grow, and some years are too wet, and the pests and diseases thrive as well as the plants.  This year we were lucky to have just enough rain and I had some good harvests of eggplant, button squash, tomatoes, capsicums, asian greens and beans.  In autumn, we see plenty of chokos and rosellas, the pumpkins are nearly ready, but as the nights cool and eventually frost, the warm-climate plants start to suffer.

Each year we seem to do really well in one thing or another.  Some years it has been beans or tomatoes.  This year is the year of the pumpkin vine.  I think its because we have the beehives near the garden.  Maybe its just luck.  We have counted 10 pumpkins so far, which will be more than enough for the two of us!

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
Poor man's beans (lab lab) and sweet potato spill out of the garden!
They won't survive the frost though.

This is the time when we can finally grow some of the cool climate crops.  Peas, broccoli, cabbage (all brassicas really), more asian greens, celery, carrots, turnips, swedes, radishes beetroot and silverbeet all do well at this time of year and actually get sweeter with the cooler weather.  Broadbeans planted now will be ready in spring.  Now is the time to remove the shadecloth from my garden and let the light back in.  I will be sorting through my seed collection ready to start planting as I remove the summer crops.  I was only watering half the garden (with grey water) through summer, but in the winter with lower evaporation rates, I can swap the sprinkler to a different end of the garden every few days and there is enough to keep everything watered.

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
and here is the pumpkin vine escaping towards the beehives

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
one of the many pumpkins

The only veges that grow year-round in my garden are kale and perennial leeks.  So far I have not found the right time to plant onions, garlic or potatoes, they never seem to make it through a dry or wet spell.  I will keep trying though, as they are staples in our kitchen.

Can you grow through winter where you are?  What are you planting at the moment?

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